2/15/17

Reese Kaplan -- Suppose You Traded Neil Walker...

25 comments

The decision to make Neil Walker a Qualifying Offer is done and his now $17.2 million cost as a result of accepting it puts him under a microscope.  The perception by most fans is that the club erred, thinking they could either extend him at a reasonable price or that he’d walk away as a free agent.  I felt no one would gamble on him until his back was proven healthy and that the Mets were setting themselves up to be the expensive guinea pigs during this recovery season.  If he does well, then he’s likely gone as a free agent.  If not, then the Mets are on the hook for a guy who even in a career average year is probably a bit overpaid. 

2nd base is a position where the Mets do indeed have plenty of depth should Walker go on the DL once again.  Major league in-house options include both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores.  Asdrubal Cabrera has also played there should Amed Rosario demonstrate with a monster year in Las Vegas that he’s ready to play in the majors, thus allowing Cabrera to shift to the other side of the diamond.  You also have some folks likely ticketed for AAA in TJ Rivera and Gavin Cecchini who looked like they can handle the bat as well. 

Consequently if Walker is healthy and playing well, the Mets might be smart to consider a mid-season trade to another club rather than lose him for nothing at year’s end (or repeat the same QO soap opera once again).  With the lack of a market for Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, the Mets’ payroll is probably a bit higher than the owners would like, so parlaying the QO mistake into a return of sorts in mid year is a double benefit as it also relieves you of half the salary obligation.   The question is where are some landing spots for Neil Walker.

The Los Angeles Angels are entrusting 2nd base to a man who was pretty much played himself out of the majors until the Nationals gave him another shot last year, Danny Espinosa.  He responded with the usual power – 24 HRs – but at the cost of a .209 average and a whopping 174 Ks in just over 500 ABs.  It would appear that his position with the Angels is vulnerable and his salary of $5.3 million wouldn’t prove much of an obstacle if he was forced to the bench.

Joe Panik started off with a couple of partial seasons with San Francisco hitting over .300 and for that reason they felt confident to hand him the starting job in 2016.  He regressed significantly to the tune of a .239 AVG with 10 HRs and 50 RBIs.  They’ll be watching him closely this year to find out which Joe Panik is the real one.  If it turns out to be the 2016 version then SF may want to look for an upgrade. Offense is not their strong suit.

A less likely target but a possible one is San Diego where they have not been in serious contention for some time now.  They turned 2nd base duties over to career minor leaguer Ryan Schimpf last year who did actually better at the major league level than he’d done in the minors.  I can’t say I recall seeing the 28 year old play here in El Paso, but the power numbers were impressive.  In half a season’s worth of ABs he hit 20 HRs and drove in 51.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is he hit just .217 and struck out on a pace to hit about 220 for the season.  Obviously a high power/low-cost option at 2B is something they would be happy to have, but at some point the ability to get on base and make contact may motivate them to seek a better option. 

Tampa is a better team than San Diego and they’re entrusting 2nd base to Nick Franklin, a guy who flamed out with the Mariners by age 25.  For his major league career he’s hit a respectable 22 HRs and 84 RBIs in around 700 ABs, but that goes along with 224 Ks and a .219 average.  Like Schimpf in San Diego, he might be someone on a hot seat if the contact rate doesn’t improve.  He doesn’t even have Schimpf’s power as an excuse. 

Kansas City is banking on Whit Merrifield, last year a 27 year old rookie with no power who did hit .283.  He’s a .273 career hitter in the minors but at some point they may want a little more punch in the lineup.  Then again, having Jorge Soler there in RF for the full season should help in that regard.  

Unfortunately that doesn't seem like a very big potential market for Walker.  There could be people who would use him at 3B or as a DH, but the number of landing spots doesn’t appear to be huge.  Furthermore, Sandy Alderson has not had much success lately on the salary dump front.  Then again, a healthy Neil Walker is a more attractive player to most clubs than the outfielders who reluctantly are returning.  

25 comments:

Thomas Brennan said...

Hopefully Walker, with a repaired back, exceeds his 2016 production. If so, one year will be A-OK.

Anonymous said...

This is probably one of Sandy's worse miscalculations so far. He offered a pay raise of about 5M to a player coming off back surgery.
Why wouldn't he take it? He would not have come close with any other team in matching that salary.

Unless he is having a monster year, he is untradeable. But if he is, why would the Mets trade him?

It may turn out to be a marriage made in heaven or in hell, but either way, I think Walker and the Mets are stuck with each other in 2017.

Reese Kaplan said...

On a one year deal anyone is tradeable. If the Mets kicked in say $5 million they might net a prospect in return at mid year which is better than what they'd get if they paid the full salary and he left without a QO next year.

Mack Ade said...

One must always first approach a trade with a scenario on who would replace the player you are about to trade.

Therefore, we have to first ask if we would be happy with Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores splitting time on second base this season, with T.J. Rivera and Gavin Cecchini in the wings.

Thomas Brennan said...

Mack, I would be happy with Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores splitting time on second base this season, with T.J. Rivera and Gavin Cecchini in the wings.

And Matt Reynolds and Phil Evans can always ride to the rescue :)

Anonymous said...

That's my point, if Walker is doing well enough where another team would be willing to pick up most of his salary and give up a prospect, why would the Mets want to trade him? He would be too important especially if the Mets are either leading or close in the NL east.

The only way I see Neil Walker being traded is if he gets off in all cylinders during spring training and at the beginning of the season and another team comes calling or if the Mets fall so far behind that they start trading players in preparation for 2018 and are willing to pay most of his salary.

Viper

Reese Kaplan said...

How much of a step down offensively would Wilmer Flores be compared to Neil Walker? Last year Flores hit 16 HRs and 49 RBIs in just 307 ABs. Walker had an additional 100+ ABs to provide 23 HRs and 55 RBIs. I think they could muddle through with similar numbers and set the Mets up with cost savings and a future prospect obtained in trade.

Of course, when/if David Wright and/or Lucas Duda go down with injuries Flores may be needed elsewhere and then the equation changes.

Mack Ade said...

Reese -

My statement was not saying the trading of Walker should not be done. It was just a generate statement asking if there is enough infield talent currently on the team to insure they can get through the season and compete for a ring.

Mack Ade said...

Hey Reese - check out this statement today -

Anthony DiComo -

Though Neil Walker is back with the Mets on a one-year qualifying offer, he says "there's potential for a long-term deal" still to occur.

bill metsiac said...

Exactly what they've been saying since he accepted the offer. He's one of the best 2Bmen around if healthy, and young enough to be worth a 2-year extension, especially if it includes a restructuring of this year's deal. A 3- year, $36 mil deal, backloaded, could reduce this year's salary to, say, $10mil.

As for trades, no one will take him on at $17 mil, so the Mets would have to pay $10 mil or so to make room for Flores. Not happenin'!

Christopher Soto said...

FWIW.....Walker's back injury has been a lingering thing since 2012!!

Across those 5 seasons, he averaged a .270 AVG, .781 OPS, 18 HR, 65 RBI stat line.....again....with lingering back injury.

If Walker is TRULY healthy for the first time since then....a repeat of last year's .282 AVG, .823 OPS is certainly attainable.

As a reminder....Walker finished 2016 with a +3.7 WAR in only 113 games....across a full season that's a little over a +5.1 WAR.....such a number would have moved him from 12th overall to the 7th most valuable 2B in all of baseball.

Eddie Corona said...

the walker senerio is the same as the Murphy one... Wlaker needs to be the one who moves around the diamond.. If Duda needs a day off then let walker play first... If we need a replacement for 3b it should be walker... It make him more attractive if a team need a 3b/1b/2b to actually see him play in those positions...
Thats how you maximized assets... Reyes has shown he can play all the positions as has flores...
Why do I compare this to Murphy... I am on record that I would not have brought back Murphy... At 2b... He was a awful at 2b... But IF last year this FO would have said lets trade duda and Murphy could have been our 1b and 3b back up well i could not argue that... Think out of the box FO....

Zozo said...

I really hope that does not happen. I hope they do trade Walker mid season, we need to upgrade our catching position. We have plenty of guys that can handle 2nd at a dirt cheap prices. Worst move was giving him a QO this offseason.

bill metsiac said...

Why does it seem tthat if the Mets pass on someone because of cost, they're "cheap" and "don't care about winning", then when they DO spend they're "foolishly overpaying"?

Is there no happy medium?

Eddie Corona said...

Bill Great question and point...
If we all believed the Mets would base all their decision based on winning I don’t think any of us would have a issue with Keeping walker, or a duda... along with everyone else... It just seems that when you do one thing it’s at an expense of something else... we are spending 150 million...but the FO has shown that they prefer NOT to spend 150 Million... So if you’re going to count your pennies you need to spin off players who can be replaced more cheaply and spend where you have a deficit...
IE I wish we didn’t have Walker but seeing how the market turned out signed Weiters... wouldn't a weiter (maybe 7-10 million deal) and darnuad combo be better than our current catching situation? If darnaud goes down then we are covered…

Thomas Brennan said...

Chris Soto makes a valuable point here - Walker played impaired for years. If he is really fixed, and close to 100%, he could be BETTER than last year. Gunning for a World Series, he could be invaluable. And his 2B fielding is clearly better than Flores.

Reese Kaplan said...

The club is hamstrung by Walker who is making $5 million MORE than Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and David Wright.

For a point of comparison, all the people ready to ride Jay Bruce out of town on a rail are willing giving up a guy who year-in/year-out delivers 31 HRs and 94 RBis without a busted back at $4.2 million less.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for improving the club any way I can but Walker is not good value and even if he repeats/extrapolates his 2016 season. Kick in half the salary and see if you can get SOMETHING in return for him. If he's not healthy, then it's a lose-lose.

bill metsiac said...

Wieters is so good and healthy that teams all over MLB are rushing to compete for him, right? Not quite!

This is a make-or-break season for Travis, and he's got to play every day to see what he can do. I can't see either him or Wieters playing a backup role, and given the expected offense from 1-7 if everyone's healthy, I have no problem using Rivera if Travis falters.

I expect Walker, once he shows he's healthy, to re-negotiate by June, making him less costly this year. Paying half or more of his salary just to dump him and play Flores or Reyes would be a total waste of $$$, not to mention lowering of quality.

Reese Kaplan said...

But spending $17.2 million and get nothing at year's end? Yeah, that makes sense!

Anonymous said...

Thomas,
There is no question that Walker is a better fielder than Flores. But is he a 15M better than Flores?

Walker has never driven over 86 runs, hit more than 23hrs and if memory serves correctly bats around 265/270.

Aside from the fielder/Range, Flores should be able to match him if given 500 at bats.

Can Sandy use an extra 15M when deGrom and Harvey are getting a lot more expensive?

Viper

bill metsiac said...

Again, do you seriously believe another team would take on his whole contract, even if we got nothing in return? I don't. Even to get a mid-level prospect, which we don't need, we'd have to pay at LEAST half his salary.

Is he worth 8 mil more than Wilmer? ABSOLUTELY! And if he signs a Murphy-like deal which would include this season, he's a bargain at $12.5 per.

In any case, if he's healthy he's worth that; if not, he's untradable.

Thomas Brennan said...

Wheeler's got a "tender elbow", let's hope Walker, Wright and Duda don't have Tender Backs

TP said...

Folks,
Remember two things, first that Walker was given a qualifying offer, not signed as a free agent. The receipt of a top draft pick factored into the equation.
Second, Walker was given that QO as a hedge against Cespedes signing elsewhere, and the health of Wright and Duda. In reality, that money or the $5 million premium on his 2016 money did not cause the team to fall short in filling out a solid roster. I can't stand the Wilpons but this is actually how big market contenders behave. I am fine with it and frankly if DW can't handle 3b I am also fine on extending Walker once he proves his health. Remember that Jose is now 34, not 27, and Wilmer has yet to prove he can handle RHP.

TP said...

Folks,
Remember two things, first that Walker was given a qualifying offer, not signed as a free agent. The receipt of a top draft pick factored into the equation.
Second, Walker was given that QO as a hedge against Cespedes signing elsewhere, and the health of Wright and Duda. In reality, that money or the $5 million premium on his 2016 money did not cause the team to fall short in filling out a solid roster. I can't stand the Wilpons but this is actually how big market contenders behave. I am fine with it and frankly if DW can't handle 3b I am also fine on extending Walker once he proves his health. Remember that Jose is now 34, not 27, and Wilmer has yet to prove he can handle RHP.

Robb said...

Now that I think about it, i would be surprised if neil walker and the mets dont come to an agreement for a 2 year extension. Neil walker is a very good player. deceptively so. he's comps on br include Ian kinsler and Brandon phillips at the same age. sure the 17.2 mm seems high but its the one year version.

Of all the things we write about on this board one of them that we cant account for is the clubhouse. By all accounts neil walker is a great clubhouse guy. Teams have been overpaying for guys like that for years. It helps that when healthy he has produced. the defense is miles ahead of murphy. and in bout 110 games he hit 280 with 23 hrs extrapolate that and hes near 30. which is a steal for 17 mmm.

could the mets fill 2b if they needed to after trading Walker. sure its the easiest position to fill on the diamond. could they find a clubhouse guy who hits 25 hrs and 275. no, not unless david wright circa 2009 shows up and moves to second base.

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