A day after getting spurned by Ben Zobrist, the Mets are shifting their focus to Neil Walker. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Bill Brink, they're now looking at the Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman, and they have talked about a possible exchange involving starting pitcher Jon Niese.
The Mets are not alone in their pursuit of the 30-year-old switch-hitter, who hit .269/.328/.427 with 16 homers, a 108 wRC+, and 2.4 fWAR during the 2015 season. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman cited the Washington Nationals as a fellow suitor. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review added both Los Angeles clubs to the conversation, reporting "very serious" interest from the Angels.
A swap centered on Walker and Niese would make sense for both sides. The Pirates currently don't have an everyday role for utilityman Josh Harrison, and Walker will enter free agency next offseason. After J.A. Happ signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, they can use some rotation depth.
Niese, who had a 4.13 ERA through 176.2 innings last year, is a solid starter, but an expendable one for New York. Walker would offer comparable offensive returns to Daniel Murphy, but he wouldn't require a lucrative long-term commitment. If they don't want him past 2016, they can extend him a qualifying offer and receive a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere next winter.