Mets second baseman Neil Walker has accepted the club’s $17.2 million qualifying offer, as first reported by Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Walker will return to New York next season instead of fully testing the free-agent market.
Walker is the second player to accept the qualifying offer today, joining Phillies pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. The other eight players who received the offer rejected it, meaning that their teams will receive draft-pick compensation if they sign elsewhere.
Walker, 31, hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 home runs in 113 games with the Mets last year after coming over in an offseason trade with the Pirates. He underwent season-ending back surgery in September, but was said to be recovering well and was expected to receive a hefty multi-year commitment on the free-agent market if he rejected the qualifying offer.
Walker’s return solidifies the second base position for the Mets, who already lost starter Bartolo Colon this winter and may also lose key slugger Yoenis Cespedes to free agency. While the short-term commitment to Walker is steep, New York may be more willing to sign Cespedes to a long-term deal without having to commit future dollars to Walker.
Though 64 players have received the qualifying offer since the system was instituted in 2012, Walker is only the fifth to accept, joining Hellickson and a trio of players last season (Brett Anderson, Matt Wieters and Colby Rasmus).