(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Today, Steven Matz played Santa Claus and Kirk Nieuwenhuis was his elf and with him was the Mets newest present for the fans, second baseman Neil Walker.
Acquired last week for Jon Niese, Walker comes to New York to fill the void left by the departed Daniel Murphy. Although he seemed very happy to be in with the Mets, the Pittsburgh native knew something like this could happen.
“I think it was pretty inevitable on my end that something was going to happen these last couple of years in Pittsburgh,” Walker said at the Mets Holiday Party. “We didn’t know what shape or form it was going to come in weather I was going to make it to my last arbitration year. With me being a Pittsburgher, it made it more magnetized in that area of the country. But it wasn’t really a surprise.”
Walker comes to the Mets with a better glove than Murphy and a comparable bat. He hit .219 last year with 16 homers and 71 RBI. Even though he’s coming from a good team in Pittsburgh, the 30 year-old knows with the Mets starting staff, there’s a very good chance of the team going back to the playoffs next season.
“I think this is a team that obviously had a lot of success last year and they know where they want to improve this year,” Walker said. “I’m just really excited to be a part of it. Obviously there is nobody that has better pitching than this staff right here. But I think the mixture of veteran guys and young guys, and guys in between is something that is very valuable, in my opinion, about that team.”
Because Walker is a switch hitter, manager Terry Collins can use his versatility throughout the lineup and with the addition of Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, he has more options going into next season.
” You are talking about the middle of the infield being veteran guys that know the game, know how to play, have track records, know what it takes to be successful,” Collins said. “We think we are going to be better off because of it.”
Walker will also be able to wear his father’s number. Tom Walker wore No. 20 with the Expos from 1972 to 1974, but his son couldn’t wear it in Pittsburgh because it was retired for Pie Traynor.
“I never had an opportunity to wear it in Pittsburgh,” Walker said. “It was a retired number there. I’ll be proudly wearing it here in New York.”
Another Move: After the party, the Mets pulled out another present and announced the re-signing of lefty specialist of Jerry Blevins.
The 32 year-old made seven appearances for the Mets in 2015 after he was acquired from Washington on March 30. He retired all 15 batters he faced, including holding lefties to a 0-14 mark.
Blevins suffered a fractured left forearm when he was struck by a Dee Gordon line drive on April 19 vs. Miami. The 6-6, 190-pounder re-fractured his left forearm on August 3 when he fell off a curb in Port St. Lucie.
The Mets will still look to upgrade the bullpen and may look to re-sign free agent Tyler Clippard.
Collins also said the No. 5 pitching slot is open and Bartolo Colon may make a return. “I know he wants to come back,” Collins said. “I know there’s talks with him going on.”