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Mets rumors: Mets are considering re-signing Neil Walker after this season

The Mets may decide to keep their incumbent second baseman after all.

Colorado Rockies v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

According to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, the Mets are likely to “make a good run” at re-signing second baseman Neil Walker when his contract expires after this season.

This represents a change of course from Walker’s original purpose on the team. Walker was initially intended as a stopgap to plug the hole at second base until Dilson Herrera was ready for the job. With Herrera out of the picture following the trade for Jay Bruce, the Mets are left without an heir apparent at the keystone. The internal options beyond Walker currently are Matt Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini, neither of whom is likely to be better than Walker next year.

As recently as July 26, Walker’s future with the Mets seemed a foregone conclusion. Walker was in the midst of a dreadful 2-for-40 stretch. Since then, Walker has completely flipped the switch, going 23-for-51, including a game-winning home run against the Tigers yesterday. One can interpret these stretches as a clinic in small sample size or as a portrait of a streaky player. However, if one looks into Walker’s career numbers they will find that he is a model of consistency.

Since his rookie season in 2010, Walker has produced between 1.9 and 3.7 fWAR every year. He has never had a below-average offensive season, and has never posted a batting average, on-base percentage, or slugging percentage more than 30 points higher or lower than his career averages of .271/.337/.433. Walker is currently hitting .268/.330/.449 with 2.7 fWAR, so barring catastrophe or explosion, he will continue the trend.

That said, there are ways in which Walker has improved since he came to New York. Walker has played career-best defense this year according to both fWAR and bWAR, and he has passed the eye test. His defense at second base has been a bright spot on a somewhat defensively inept team. Furthermore, the switch-hitting Walker has posted career-best numbers against left-handers. In an admittedly small sample size of 93 plate appearances, Walker has hit .306/.366/.565 compared to a career line of .265/.323/.364. Walker’s BABIP against left-handers has remained modest at .299, but his HR/FB% (i.e., the percentage of fly balls that go for home runs) has jumped from 4.5% to 16.7%. One should not expect quite so many of Walker’s fly balls to continue leaving the yard, but even if he settles around his aggregate career average of 10.6% he will be an improved player.

Due to the lack of internal options and the thin free agent market, the Mets will likely be a better team in 2017 with Walker than without.