Neil Walker accepts Mets' qualifying offer, back on one-year deal

Neil Walker will be back with the Mets in 2017. The second baseman has accepted the Mets’ qualifying offer of $17.2 million and will return on the one-year deal. Yoenis Cespedes, as expected, did not accept the offer and will become a qualified free agent.

Walker hit .282 with a career-high tying 23 home runs and 55 RBI for the Mets in 113 games this season. The Mets were impressed with Walker, who improved himself as a right-handed hitter this season, and had some brief conversations with his agents about a possible longer-term deal.

He said that he was open to returning to the Mets, and after having spent his entire career in his hometown of Pittsburgh, it was eye-opening for him. Walker realized he could manage playing on a “big-market” team just fine and that there were some benefits in working outside his comfort zone.

For the most part, the Mets have always seen the qualifying offer as simply protection.

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They had never made a qualifying offer until 2016, to Daniel Murphy after the 2015 season even though their future plans did not include him. They hedged that his big postseason numbers would make him attractive enough to other teams that he would get the multi-year offers he was looking for and they would never give him. The Mets were looking for the compensatory draft pick, which they used this past June to pick up pitcher Anthony Kay in the 2016 MLB amatuer draft.

With the qualifying offer going up to $17.2 million this season, it complicated things a little more.

Making the offer to Cespedes was a no-brainer. With him walking away from a contract that would have paid him over $23 million next season, it was a guarantee that he would reject the offer and leave them with a compensation pick in the 2017 draft if he signs with another team.

Walker, however, presented a different problem. It would be an almost $7 million raise for the 30-year-old second baseman, who is coming off back surgery. The Mets were gambling that perhaps having to shut his season down earlier because of the back injury Walker might be a little concerned about his market. He can use this season as a chance to build up for another chance at the free agent market after 2017.

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The Mets genuinely wanted Walker back.

After trading for Walker last winter, the Mets were pleasantly surprised with how well he played — particularly against left-handed pitchers.

Besides giving the Mets a right-handed presence in their lineup, he is insurance against the injury concerns they have going into 2017. The Mets said they are comfortable playing Walker at third and first as well as second base, considering that David Wright is dealing with a degenerative spinal condition and Lucas Duda has had back issues the past two seasons.

Last week at the GM Meetings, the Mets’ front office was pretty non-committal about Wright in 2017. Wright missed most of the 2016 season with a herniated disc in his neck which eventually needed surgery. He has played a total of 75 regular-season games in the last two seasons, so the Mets are just not sure how much they can expect from him.

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Duda missed 115 games with a fractured lower-back. He missed 27 with a back issue in 2015.

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mlb
new york mets
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neil walker

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