A contract extension to lock up Neil Walker is apparently dead. That may not be the worst thing.
The New York Post reported Monday (sorry, I was busy yesterday) that the two sides are far apart and a contract will likely not happen. Walker is signed for 2017 at the qualifying offer price of $17.2 million. It is believed the Mets wanted to reduce that inflated salary this year by offering him two more years, probably for around $40 million for three years.
Walker hit .282 with 23 home runs and 55 RBIs last season, a season cut short by back surgery. I am surprised the Mets were willing to make a big money commitment to a player coming off such an operation. Walker was also very streaky in 2016; you’d think the Mets would want someone who was more consistent.
Say, someone like Daniel Murphy.
If the Mets do sign Neil Walker for that $40 million, when it is all said and done, they would have paid him $50 million for four seasons. They could have kept Murphy at the three-year, $37.5 million he got from the Nationals. Had the Mets known Murphy would emerge like he did in 2016, they likely would have kept him. But the Mets did not believe his 2015 postseason power surge was real (apparently Kevin Long did, but he’s just the hitting coach).
The Mets may have been right to move on from Murphy; while he was always a good hitter, his defense was getting worse and worse. And they had Dilson Herrera ready to step in. But now Herrera is gone, giving the Mets no choice but to overpay for Walker.
The Mets know they have a limited window to win a championship before their pitchers start to become free agents. Walker is still young enough (31) that a three-year deal would not be outrageous, and it would fit right into that window. I just wouldn’t rush into anything. Let’s see how the back heals and see if Walker can establish some kind of consistently. Then go ahead and open the vault.