After missing out on Ben Zobrist, the New York Mets have swung a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, acquiring second baseman Neil Walker in exchange for pitcher Jon Niese. Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported that a deal was in place with ESPN’s Buster Olney confirming Niese’s inclusion in the trade.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) December 9, 2015
Both players were known to be on the trade block for a while. The Mets have a surplus of young pitching, making the veteran Niese expendable. And the Pirates were reportedly not going to re-sign Walker — who is a free agent after 2016 — to a new contract.
Walker, 30, is a switch-hitter whose consistency over the past half-decade has been a staple of the Pirates’ organization. In 2015, Walker did see his numbers drop slightly, but he was still a productive player. Through 151 games, he batted.269 with 16 HR and 71 RBI. The year prior was Walker’s best offensive season, hitting.271 with 76 RBI and a career-high 23 HR.
For his career, Walker is a.272 hitter and has averaged 16 HR since becoming a starter in 2010.
While his skillset is generally solid, Walker’s platoon splits have become an issue in recent seasons. As a left-handed hitter, Walker hit opposing right-handed pitchers at a.276 clip with 16 HR and 62 RBI — which is nearly all of his production last season. As a right-handed hitter, lefties kept Walker as.237 hitter with no HR and nine RBI. It’s possible the Mets give young second baseman Dilson Herrera some at-bats against left-handed pitching next season to offset Walker’s struggles.
Walker’s salary for 2016 is yet to be determined, but MLB Trade Rumors predicts he’ll get $10.7 million through arbitration.
The Mets originally tried for the versatile Ben Zobrist to fill the void at second base, but he signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Chicago Cubs last night, as reported by the Inquisitr.
As for the Pirates, they acquire the 29-year-old veteran left-hander Niese. The eight-year veteran, much like Walker, had a down season in 2015. But thanks to the success of the Mets’ young starters like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, Niese’s struggles were not as apparent. In 33 games (29 starts) for the Mets, Niese went 9-10 with a 4.13 ERA in 176-and-two-thirds innings.
Entering the postseason in 2015, the Mets put Niese in the bullpen where he served as a situational left-handed option. Niese only made his way into one game in both the NLDS and NLCS, but was used in four of five World Series games.
Prior to 2015, Niese was an effective innings-eater for the Mets, averaging a 3.50 ERA, 173 innings, and 10 wins from 2012-2014. If he can return to that form for Pittsburgh in 2016, he could represent a bargain for a Pirates team that has seen its share of pitchers’ career renaissance’s.
Niese figures to slot into the Pirates rotation and is owed $9 million in 2016. The Pirates can also have two options to control Niese in both 2017 and 2018. The first option is worth $10 million and the second is worth $11 million. Both options contain $500,000 buyouts.
With Niese gone, the Mets are reportedly looking to reunite with a familiar face to serve as the team’s swingman. Marc Carig of Newsday tweets that the Mets have “stepped up their efforts” to re-sign veteran, Bartolo Colon. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York adds that there’s “mutual interest” between both sides and that a deal should get done.
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) December 9, 2015
Colon signed a two-year, $20 million pact with the Mets prior to the 2014 season. Over the span of the deal, “Bart” pitched to a 29-26 record with a 4.12 ERA.
The Mets’ rotation to open 2016 figures to be Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Rafael Montero. Zack Wheeler is slated to return from injury later in the season.
[Image by Leon Halip/Getty Images]