The Cubs stole the Mets’s top priority this offseason in Ben Zobrist late Tuesday, so the Mets responded Wednesday by trading for Pittsburgh’s favorite second baseman Neil Walker for pitcher Jon Niese.
This is a very great trade for both sides. For the Mets, it solves their second base problem and they don’t have to pay for years 36-38 of Ben Zobrist. The Mets would have had to have paid Zobrist $15 million a year for the end of his career. With Walker, the Mets get solid production (.269/.328/.427 with 16 home runs last year) and solid defense from a guy who is entering his prime. Walker may be owed $12 million next year, but Niese would have made $9 million, so in turn Walker only makes the Mets’s payroll $3 million more. Beyond 2016, Walker becomes a free agent, the Mets are able to promote prospect Dilson Herrera (.331/.384/.515 with 11 homers in 84 games in triple A Las Vegas), and they lose the $19 million that Niese is owed over the next two seasons.
As for the Pirates, this deal gives the Bucs their much-needed 5th starter. With the retirement of A.J. Burnett in the offseason, the Pirates had to find a quality, major league ready arm. With this trade the Pirates get an experienced, veteran southpaw who is only 29 years old. With Walker gone, the Pirates can move utilityman and former all star Josh Harrison to second base permanently and have Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco play the outfield full time.
Lastly, the Mets also signed SS Asdrubal Cabrera to a 2 year, $18.5 million deal. Cabrera was an all star in 2011 and 2012 with the Cleveland Indians, but he hasn’t returned to that form since. Cabrera still put up a respectable slash line (.265/.315/.430) with the Rays last year. Cabrera will cost a draft pick, but the Mets will gain that back when postseason hero Daniel Murphy signs with another team. Early reports suggest that, with the Cabrera will play short and third when David Wright needs a day off for his spinal stenosis.
That leaves the two former middle infield starters, Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada, without a place to go. The Mets front office is saying that today’s deals were to improve depth, so Flores and Tejada will now become the backup infielders.
The Mets will now need to look to find a center fielder to fill the offensive gap left by Yoenis Cespsedes and to strengthen up their bullpen while the Pirates are basically done, but they have been rumored to be interested in resigning UT Sean Rodriguez.