The Mets and Neil Walker can’t seem to reach an agreement over a contract extension. Yesterday, Mike Puma of The New York Post reported that the extension talks are “probably dead.” Before Walker accepted the Mets’ $17.2 million qualifying offer, it was being reported by multiple sources that the sides were talking about a possible 3-year contract worth a little over $40 million. According to Marc Carig of Newsday, the extension talks “hit a snag” when the Mets wanted to restructure Walker’s 2017 salary of $17.2 million.
While the speculation sounds accurate, it also goes against Sandy Alderson’s statement Sunday concerning where the Mets’ payroll stands. Alderson told reporters, “We’re all in here,” going on to say that money isn’t too much of a factor at this point for the team, which currently has a payroll around $150 million. “I think it’s a credit to ownership that our payroll is as high as it is now, given where we’ve been as recently as two years ago and where our budget might have been. But we’ve had the fortune here recently of being able to take advantage of opportunities, or not have to make moves on the basis primarily of payroll. So from that standpoint, we should all be pleased,” Alderson said.
Alderson has flip-flopped on the team’s payroll already over the offseason. Early in the offseason, Alderson said he wanted to trade Jay Bruce as a means of lowering the team’s payroll and allowing him to sign some relievers. Not only has Alderson held onto Bruce and his $13 million, but he’s also added relievers Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins, adding around $9.5 million to the payroll.
While the extension talks between Walker and the Mets may be dead for now, Marc Carig of Newsday reports that “A source said the parties are seeking a resolution before the beginning of the regular season, when contract talks could become a distraction.” This revelation still hints at the possibility of the two sides reaching an agreement later this spring.
If the Mets are unable to sign Walker to an extension, they may end up turning to top prospect Gavin Cecchini as their second baseman of the future. While Cecchini has consistently shown the ability to hit, his defense has often been an issue. Last season in Triple-A Las Vegas, he hit .325, with a .390 on-base percentage and .448 slugging percentage, earning him a September call-up to the Mets. However, the shortsop also committed 33 errors last season, posting a fielding percentage of .931. Perhaps a switch to the second base position can help him to improve his defensive ability. Assuming the Mets organization moves him to second base in order to make room for star prospect Amed Rosario, maybe Tim Teufel can work with Cecchini in the same way he worked with Daniel Murphy in teaching him to play second base better. If the Mets are able to reach an agreement with Walker on an extension, third base could be a good position for Cecchini to work on.