The Mets need another starting infielder, and probably at second base. There have been various options discussed, and some of them are even intriguing, but the more I look at it the more it feels like Neil Walker is the best choice for the Mets.
Unless the Mets are going to pull off a Brian Dozier trade, something they might not have the right prospects/pieces for, Neil Walker is actually one of the better second basemen. His wRC+ of 114 was 8th best last year of second basemen with at least 400 PA, behind guys mostly unavailable. He moves up to 6th if you include 2016. His defense has been solid and he’s got an excellent walk rate which is something the Mets need to mix in to balance against players like Flores, Rosario, Lagares and d’Arnaud who have a poor BB%. This is also an argument for getting Brandon Nimmo plenty of playing time, but let’s save that for another time. He also doesn’t require the Mets to expend any prospect resources to acquire him.
Of course, health is one of the concerns. He’s 29th in plate appearances among second basemen over the last two years, and you’d like a little more than that. Though he was still 11th most valuable according to fWAR, so even if he’s going to get a DL trip or two, you’re still getting your money’s worth, especially if you have competent backups that can hold down the fort, like Wilmer Flores. All players are somewhat of an injury risk, and it’s hard to say Walker would be more prone to one in 2018 than any of the other options the Mets might pursue. It’s possibly that these are signs that Walker’s body is breaking down with age, but it’s also possible they’re outliers and he’ll play 140 or more in 2018. Since he’s been here, the Mets have a good idea about his physical shape and medical records.
Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors predicted two years, twenty million for Walker, which is only a smidge above what the Mets paid for him last year. The banter from Heyman, et al, is that he’s looking for a four year deal, but there might not actually be a market for that. Even at three years for 10-12 per Walker is probably a good sign for the Mets, somewhere he’s already played and been comfortable and successful.
There are a few teams looking for a second basemen, but not a ton, and no one seems to be beating down Walker’s door at the moment. He’s not a sexy pick for the Mets, as there seems to to be some reluctance to return parts of the same 2017 team that underperformed, but Walker was a part of the successful 2016 club as well, and he’s definitely one of the better players for a position the Mets have a clear need at.