The Mets announced they have acquired 2B Neil Walker from the Pirates in return for LHP Jon Niese.
In 151 games at second base for the Pirates last season, Walker, 30, hit .269 with a .328 OBP, 16 HR, 32 doubles, four stolen bases and a .427 slugging percentage.
Walker will likely earn $10.7 million in 2016, after which he is eligible to be a free agent, according to a projection from MLB Trade Rumors. Niese will be paid $9 million in 2015, after which he has consecutive team options that can be bought out for $500,000.
The Angels, Dodgers, Nationals and Orioles were also rumored to be involved in talks for Walker.
I like this deal a lot, especially since the money is essentially the same. It's a really solid move, taking from a strength to improve a weakness.
I believe this is a slight upgrade in the field, but it's worth noting he came up a catcher and third baseman. Walker also adds a bit more pop and, since he can switch hit, helps change up the lineup. I also like that he's only a one-year commitment, since Dilson Herrera is more or less ready to start in the big leagues. However, he can now get more time in Triple-A and, if something happens to Walker, Herrera can fill in. And, if Walker plays out the season, Herrera can take over in 12 months. It's a win-win.
The Mets will miss Niese, who showed last season he can be useful in the bullpen. However, they can replace him with Rafael Montero, Logan Verrett, etc., or sign someone as a free agent at significantly less cost to fill his role, such as Bartolo Colon.
Walker is a solid choice to replace Murphy at second base. He's fairly similar, though his ability to switch-hit adds an extra dimension of flexibility. He's above average with the bat and, while his batting average is lower than Murphy's, you can expect a little more power and walks from Walker. He had a career year in 2014, with 23 HR and an .809 OPS, but his numbers last year were closer to his career line...
Like Murphy, Walker is not a gifted defender, but not to the same extent (-10 defensive runs saved over his career compared to -42 for Murphy). He is adequate up the middle, but it's not a strength by any means. Unfortunately, he lacks Murphy's versatility in the infield, having played only minimal time at third base several years ago and no time at all at first. He had a career year in 2014, with 23 home runs and an .809 OPS, but his numbers last year were closer to his career line (.272/.338/.431 with 16 home runs).