Neil Walker is returning to the New York Mets in 2017 after accepting a qualifying offer of $17.2 million from Sandy Alderson and his front office. In a marketplace where ballplayers lean heavily on opting out of their contracts in order to cash in on a long-term extension, Walker made the best move he could make considering his current circumstances.
Make no mistake, Walker had a tremendous season in 2016, in fact it was on pace to be the best of his career. In 113 games, Walker hit .282 with 23 home runs (tying a career high) and drove in 55. In addition, he had a .347 on base percentage, the second highest of his career, and an OPS of .823, the best of his career.
Yet, the main reason Walker is staying put in New York for a very lucrative one-year contract has a lot to do with the fact that his 2016 season was cut short by a herniated disk in his back. Had he finished the season, Walker could have easily set a career high in home runs, scored 70-plus runs and collected over 130 hits. Had he stayed healthy, we would be talking about a different situation where Walker is looking to cash in on his breakout season in Flushing.
Instead, he is doing the sensible thing and betting on himself. If he has another big year in 2017, not only will it help out the Mets on the field, but it will translate into one more big contract in 2018. Not to mention with the pending CBA negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Union could result in some changes in the free agent marketplace next year.
For the Mets, this is a home run. Financially, the $17.2 million will not handcuff the Mets from going out and pursuing other free agents this winter. On the field, the Mets get a great clubhouse guy, who put up numbers that rivaled former Met, Daniel Murphy and Cardinals second baseman Jedd Gyroko. This is a worthwhile gamble that makes a lot of sense for both sides.null