Neil Walker was acquired by the Mets to replace the departed Daniel Murphy at second base. His season ended prematurely in late August, and he needed back surgery in early September to repair herniated discs. To that point, he was enjoying an outstanding campaign, matching his career-best 23 homers and sporting the second-best batting average of his career. Despite the procedure requiring a three-month recovery, the Mets extended Walker a qualifying offer for 2017, which he promptly accepted. Walker's 2016 power surge was a result of lofting more batted balls in tandem with recording his highest HR/FB% in the bigs. Walker's home parks are slightly favorable to left-handed power, suggesting he's likely to undergo a regression in HR/FB, regardless of health. If healthy, Walker is a solid middle-infield option, likely available at a discount as many will chase the shining stars populating the second base and shortstop positions.
Walker went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run, his third blast of the spring, in Monday's Grapefruit League game against the Marlins. The Mets continue to launch homers like they're playing in the thin desert air of the Cactus League, and three-quarters of their starting infield went yard in this one. Walker is now hitting .333/.385/.792 through 24 spring at-bats, and seems anxious for the regular season to begin after he tied his career high with 23 home runs in 2016.
Walker went 2-for-2 with a home run, two runs scored and two RBI in Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Astros. He's got two home runs through his first 11 spring at-bats, and Walker is off to a strong start in camp as he looks to repeat or exceed the 23 home runs he popped in 2016.
Walker went 0-for-2 in his first Grapefruit League action of the spring Sunday, and had no issues with his surgically repaired back, The New York Daily News reports. "Good to get back out there, get the first couple at-bats out of the way, move around. Felt great," said Walker after the game. "I fouled a couple balls off left-handed, swung through a couple pitches right-handed. That's typically the last hurdle any time I've had back stuff that's crept up in the past. Once you can fully let it go and everything is perfectly fine - that was the case today." He'll be the Mets' starting second baseman in 2017, and perhaps beyond if stalled contracts talks with the team resume at some point. Walker posted a career-high .823 OPS in his first season with the team last year, but his 113 games played was his lowest since 2010, so staying healthy could result in some very impressive numbers for the 31-year-old.
Walker will get consideration as the Mets' leadoff hitter this season on days when Jose Reyes isn't in the lineup, The New York Post reports. He didn't hit any higher than second last season for the Mets, and in his career Walker has only eight at-bats from the leadoff spot, but the Mets don't really have any ideal options for the top of the order in their standard starting eight. With Reyes stuck in a super-utility role, however, the team will need someone else to handle the job, and if Walker and his career .339 OBP do see significant action as the leadoff hitter, he could see a slight uptick in his runs scored.
Extension talks between the Mets and Walker (back), which looked to be close to a three-year deal worth in the vicinity of $40 million, appear to be dead, Mike Puma of the NY Post reports. The sticking point in talks between the two sides is how to or if to restructure the first year of the deal, freeing up money for the Mets thus season. The two sides could re-engage discussions, but for now, negotiations between the Mets and Walker look to be on the far back-burner.