NEW YORK -- When the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pirates last December, the move appeared temporary. Dilson Herrera was arguably already set to take over the starting second base job, and with Walker due for free agency after the season, it seemed only natural that Herrera would become
NEW YORK -- When the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pirates last December, the move appeared temporary. Dilson Herrera was arguably already set to take over the starting second base job, and with Walker due for free agency after the season, it seemed only natural that Herrera would become the starter at that time.
But the landscape changed once the Mets included Herrera in their non-waiver Trade Deadline deal for Jay Bruce -- so much so that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson plans to reach out to Walker's agent between now and the end of the season to gauge his interest in a contract extension. Walker has been doing his part despite the Mets' recent struggles, homering in their 5-3 loss to Arizona on Tuesday to improve to .491 with seven extra-base hits over his last 13 games.
"Neil's had a very nice season for us, no question about that," Alderson said. "And certainly he's been very productive over the last couple of weeks, at a time when we've needed that productivity with some of the injuries and other issues. I have not had any conversations with his agent to this point. I expect that there will be some conversations before the end of the season. … He's been very instrumental in the level of success that we've had."
In particular, Alderson cited Walker's ability to become a clubhouse leader at a time when captain David Wright is injured. And while Walker deferred to Wright as "the absolute leader of this team," the second baseman does embrace his role as a vocal veteran.
"I didn't come in here looking to be any type of leader," Walker said. "I came in here looking to contribute, looking to play a part. But then again, I've played this game for a decent amount of years. So you kind of understand when you're leaned upon a little more as far as in the locker room, or whatever the case may be. I certainly see myself as kind of a natural leader."
The Mets consider that important while weighing who their next second baseman will be. Yet more important is Walker's ability; he is hitting .273 with 20 homers, trailing only Daniel Murphy among National League second basemen in the latter category. And as the Mets have seen firsthand with Murphy, power gains at age 30 can be real.
Still, to do a long-term deal, interest must be mutual, and Walker admits to being curious about exploring free agency this winter for the first time in his career. But he has also grown comfortable in New York and enjoys being in the Northeast, close to the home he and his wife recently built outside Pittsburgh. The incentive for him to stay is tangible.
"Obviously there's a lot of great things going on here," Walker said. "It's a double-edged sword. … It certainly is interesting to think about what could happen this offseason as far as teams' interest and things like that. But when you look at the big picture and you look at what's going on here and you look at how I fit in here, and how happy I've been with the camaraderie and the front office and the coaching staff and the players, this is a really good fit for me."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.