The Mets have suffered a litany of injuries this season, but one everyday player who’s managed to stay healthy is Neil Walker. That Walker has now gone on a hot streak as the Mets lost their best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, to the disabled list just goes to show how crucial Walker could be to the Mets’ immediate future.
Walker was benched for two games on July 24 and 26 by Terry Collins, but since he returned, Walker has tallied at least one hit in 11 of his last 13 games, and has seven multi-hit games in that span. Walker has even provided some late-inning heroics, hitting late-inning go-ahead homers against Colorado (July 31) and Detroit (Aug. 7).
Walker, hitting .367 through the first seven games of August, chalks up his resurgence from a 4-for-45 July dry spell to a mandated “mental re-start” from Collins.
“[I’m] working on timing more than anything else,” Walker told the New York Post. “Timing and rhythm and trying to get back to the big part of the field. Getting some extra work in the cage…taking a couple of days mentally to hit restart and get back to work.”
“He just needed a break,” Collins told reporters recently. “Mental fatigue can lead to physical fatigue. Even though [players] think they’re not tired…they are tired.”
Walker has been a catalyst for the Mets all season long, hitting .268 with 19 home runs and 49 RBI. He’d love to take those numbers to the negotiating table, which will make Sandy Alderson’s job that much harder. At age 30, Walker will probably be looking for a lucrative, multi-year extension, something that may be difficult for the Mets to hand out as they have other pressing matters to attend to (Travis d’Arnaud, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Wilmer Flores, and Addison Reed are all arbitration-eligible this offseason). Per MLBtraderumors.com, Walker could be seeking “a Chase Headley contract” (four years, $52 million) as the 2017 free agent pool is comparatively weak.
The Mets’ recent deal for Jay Bruce cost them Dilson Herrera, the presumed second baseman of the future, so now the team has one less option to turn to next season should Walker leave town. Amed Rosario, the highly-regarded Mets shortstop prospect, will probably not be part of the big-league club next season. That leaves the Mets with Wilmer Flores, Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt Reynolds and Jose Reyes (club option for 2017) as the most realistic possibilities for the middle infield positions beyond Walker next season.
Walker, who expressed trepidation about playing in New York after leaving his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates via trade last winter, has done a 180 and could see himself back with the Mets next year.
“I love my teammates, the coaches and all the people here,” he told the Daily News. “I could not be more excited about this team and its future.”
That sentiment will make it even more difficult for Alderson to forego re-signing Walker.