When Neil Walker torched National League pitchers in April with nine homers, there were reports about the need to bring him back for 2017. With Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both. Now, Walker’s career could be over by the end of September, or October if they are lucky to get that far.
Ironically, if Walker is done after this season, it could give the Mets the financial flexibility to bring back Cespedes.
Manager Terry Collins said he’s not able to give specifics about Walker’s back injury. However, when he said Walker wouldn’t be an everyday player for the rest of the season, it’s obvious the news isn’t good.
Walker was out of the lineup for the third straight game Tuesday and Collins said he wasn’t sure he could play tonight.
Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, which puts the Mets in an interesting situation. Several months ago the Mets could have entertained the idea of extending Walker’s contract ($10.55 million this year). That option is now gone. Also gone with Walker’s strained lower back is his marketing leverage.
Whether it be the Mets or somebody else, a bad back represents a terrible credit report.
As good as Walker has played – and before being sidelined he was scorching – not many teams are willing to go out on the limb for a player with a sore and stiff back, regardless of how good a clubhouse presence he is.
Representing a constant reminder of the fragile nature of dealing with a player with a bad back is David Wright, whose only source of exercise is walking through the stands before the gates open.
Walker is having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker is batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.
For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base – that is if Wilmer Flores stays hot. Flores had two hits, including a RBI single Tuesday, and overall is hitting .267 with 14 homers and 45 RBI.
When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.
With Walker’s immediate long term future wth the Mets is precarious at best, and their second baseman of the future in Dilson Herrera traded to Cincinnati for Jay Bruce, Flores might finally be getting his chance.