PHILADELPHIA — The Mets continued to sell off their veterans Saturday night, sending Neil Walker and cash to the Brewers for a player to be named later. Walker was owed just under $5 million on his $17.1 million deal for 2017.
The Mets have been committed to shedding their veterans in preparation for 2018, and Sandy Alderson may not be done yet.
“We still have inventory,” Alderson said when asked if he was done dealing.
Not so much anymore.
Walker is the second player dealt this week, following Jay Bruce, who was sent to the Indians on Wednesday. He is the fourth veteran the Mets have traded in the last two weeks after they sent first baseman Lucas Duda to Tampa and closer Addison Reed to the Red Sox.
Sandy Alderson said publicly on Thursday that his motivating factor was not saving money, but clearing the way for young kids to play with an eye toward 2018.
This is the second trade the Mets made that was not a total financial gain for them. They took on salary when they traded for AJ Ramos before the non-waiver deadline.
“It’s a funny market these days. Some clubs, in fact many clubs, prefer to take on salary than move prospects, some sense you have to look for value,” Alderson said. “It is also important for us to create playing time. We’re seeing that at first base, we’re seeing it at shortstop and we’re going to see it in the outfield to some extent. I think we’ll have a simpler rotation in the infield. This is about seeing what some of our players can do for 2018.”
But the Mets do not have a clear idea of who this move opens up playing time for.
Wilmer Flores will get some time at second and possibly Matt Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini “down the road,” Alderson said.
T.J. Rivera also figures into the Mets’ plans at second base for next year, but he is in Florida in the initial stages of trying to rehab a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
It was an awkward end to Walker’s time as a Met.
He was summoned to the manager’s office after taking batting practice on the field, where he stood with Alderson for about five minutes and then said his goodbyes in the clubhouse.
But there was a holdup on the final details as Milwaukee had to make a roster move after their game with the Reds. It did not become official until about 11:15 p.m. after the Brewers walked off a 10-inning game.
Walker had waited in the Mets clubhouse until the fifth inning. As he left the clubhouse, he told reporters he could not comment because there was no official deal. Then he climbed onto a golf cart and was driven out of Citizens Bank Park.
With their 3-1 loss to the Phillies Saturday night, the Mets are 10 games below .500.
So there is really no reason for Alderson to keep assets he can sell off at this point.
And Walker was a strange signing for the Mets from the start.
A good deal before the 2016 season, the Mets got him in a straight trade that sent lefty Jon Niese to the Pirates. The 31-year-old had to end his season early to have surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, however. A free agent at the end of the year, the Mets offered him the $17.1 million qualifying offer. It was a perfect deal for Walker, giving him a chance to prove he was healthy before hitting the free agent’s market.
It was a huge salary, however, for a second baseman coming off back surgery. It also held up attempts to deal Walker over the last few weeks, even more so than the reported concerns over his medicals.
A Brewers source confirmed that the teams had talked about Walker a few times over the last week. He said, however, that the remaining salary, $4.7 million, was a sticking point for Milwaukee.
The Brewers had fewer concerns about Walker’s health, which had apparently been a sticking point for the Yankees in a deal that was close to being done July 31. Walker, upset that that story leaked out just as he was coming into free agency at the end of this season, insisted he was healthy.
He proved it in his last two games as a Met, going 6-for-9 with a home run and two RBI against the Phillies.