Neil Walker has officially accepted the Mets’ 17.2 million dollar qualifying offer instead of testing free agency. Neil Walkyear 2.0 commences effective immediately. 2017 continues to go down as the year of the walk-year for the Mets as Neil is added to the list of guys playing for a contract. It’s a smart move by Neil since the market for his services may have been hurt by his late season back-surgery as well as the draft pick compensation tied to signing him as a result of the qualifying offer. Now he will have another full season to show he’s healthy, and it’s also possible that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will modify the qualifying offer system and eliminate draft pick compensation as part of the process. So in an ideal world for Neil, he will prove his health in 2017 and have a chance to sign a 3-5 year deal next offseason without being tied to a draft pick.
On the surface this is great news for the Mets, assuming Neil’s back injury doesn’t linger and turn out to be a chronic issue (i.e. it evolves into a classic strain of METS disease). Obviously as a Mets fan I fear the worst, but even if the back problem persists the Mets aren’t committed to Walker long-term. They get to keep the roster/payroll flexibility that Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons love so much. The 17.2 million dollar price tag may be a bit higher than the 13-15 million annual salary Walker would probably earn as part of a long-term deal. But it’s a small price to pay to avoid the extra commitment in terms of years.
The downside of course is that nobody really knows the Mets projected payroll for next season. I’ve heard speculation that this contract may prevent the Mets from signing Cespedes. I’ve heard speculation that this deal may force the Mets to dump some extra salary in order to make a reasonable offer to Yoenis Cespedes. I’ve heard that the Mets ideally would like to keep Cespedes and Walker and won’t make any significant additions to the roster beyond the retention of those two guys.
The bottom line is this. If Neil Walker’s decision to accept the qualifying offer truly prevents the Mets from signing Yo or making other meaningful acquisitions then the organization is a lost cause. I’m hoping the Mets keep Yo, Walker and make other big additions to both the bullpen and the bench. We’re trying to win a championship. So let’s improve this damn roster and make a run. Retaining Yo/Walker and dumping the salaries of Bartolo Colon and Jay Bruce to make that possible doesn’t exactly equate to a net improvement of the roster heading into 2017. But the offseason has just started. Let’s see what happens.
The next step is to sign Cespedes. The Mets should have already signed Yo. But there’s still time. Do it tomorrow. And at least today is a good day. A Neil Walkyear reboot is a pretty good thing. As long as he doesn’t catch the stenosis. Pray for his back. Pray for all their backs.