The New York Mets headed to the winter meetings this week with Ben Zobrist as their No. 1 target, but instead left Nashville, Tenn., with Neil Walker and Asdrúbal Cabrera as their new middle infield combination. The team can only hope that this second choice works out as well as their most recent backup plan.
At the trading deadline this season, it seemed as if the Mets were going to acquire Carlos Gomez from Milwaukee. Wilmer Flores, who was supposed to be headed to the Brewers in the deal, became well-known for weeping when he was told he was leaving New York. But that trade fell through, so the Mets settled for Yoenis Cespedes, who had 17 home runs in 57 games to help lead them to a shocking World Series appearance.
The Mets lost out on Zobrist Tuesday when he signed a four-year, $56 million deal with the Cubs, who sent another rumored Mets target, Starlin Castro, to the Yankees. There was barely enough time for the fan base to call in talk radio before ESPN’s Buster Olney broke the news that the Mets would get Walker in exchange for left-hander Jon Niese. Later that night, there were reports of the Mets signing Cabrera.
Those moves might prove better in the long run and for the upcoming season.
Zobrist will be 35 next May and by signing him to a four-year deal, the Mets might’ve had a contract that could sink chances to ink any of their young starters to a deal. With Walker, the Mets get a second baseman who had 16 homers for the Pirates in 2015 after belting 23 the season before, and is a better fielder than the departed Daniel Murphy.
Walker is in the final year of his contract, meaning youngsters like Dilson Herrera and Flores won’t be blocked when they’re ready. The money saved by not getting Zobrist allowed them to get the slick-fielding Cabrera, who had 15 homers for Tampa Bay. His presence will allow Ruben Tejada to take his time recovering from his horrific injury during the National League Division Series and push Flores into a bench role.
Many baseball people feel the Mets did a good job with the moves. Walker seems happy to come to the Mets, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “We all saw how capable they are of competing and reaching their goal. Seems like they’re probably not done looking for more pieces. … It’s really exciting to see the work that [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and [manager] Terry [Collins] and the team are doing right now.”
The Mets’ young starters will also be happy with Walker and Cabrera behind them, especially after Murphy’s World Series miscues.
There are still holes the Mets need to fill if they want to have a chance to repeat their National League title. But these additions were a good start.