The Mets apparently had a Plan B.
After being spurned by Ben Zobrist, the Mets proceeded to remake their middle infield by first trading lefthander Jon Niese to the Pirates for second baseman Neil Walker and then signing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a two year contract.
“[Walker] is a guy we had on our short list, but didn’t know if he would be available,” assistant general manager John Ricco said to reporters in Nashville. “We view him as a real positive alternative to the deal we were looking to do the other day. He’s a switch hitter, he’s got some power and he’s a real good fit for our team.”
Walker hit .269 with 16 homers and 571 RBI last year. He is arbitration eligible and is expected to make between $11-12 million in 2016. However, by trading Niese, the Mets free up $9.5 million which offsets most of Walker’s salary.
And then there’s Cabrera who hit .265 with 15 homers and 58 RBI for the Tampa Bay Rays. At age 30, he will be making reportedly $18.5 million over the life of the contract. Even with some diminished range, he is expected to take over the shortstop position from Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores.
The Mets will probably need Cabrera, since Tejada is recovering from the broken leg he suffered in the NLDS, while Flores broke his ankle a couple of days ago in winterball.
“We’re looking for ways to give [manager] Terry [Collins] some options to mix and match and we do have some options from the right side to mix and match that would be complements to him,” Ricco said to reporters. “But Walker has played every day on some pretty good teams, so I think he’s going to get a lot of playing time.”
This doesn’t mean the Mets should be finished for the winter. They will need a No. 5 pitcher until Zack Wheeler comes back and may look to bring back Bartolo Colon if they don’t feel internal options like Rafael Montero, Logan Verrett, and Sean Gilmartin won’t cut the mustard.
They also need some bullpen help and may look to re-sign Tyler Clippard, while they will look for a lefthanded hitting compliment for Juan Lagares in centerfield.
But the hot stove is just heating up and the Mets are proving they can take an December punch.