Neil Walker’s stellar 2016 season at second base for the Mets has been dotted with success at the plate and absences from the field. He may have hit .387 with a 1.048 OPS from July to August, but lower back stiffness stole him out of the lineup at a crucial time for the Mets’ playoff hopes. After sitting for four days, Walker departed the team on paternity leave. Since August 21, he’s appeared in two games, logging three hits and a home run, before news broke last night that his back problems weren’t going away.
BREAKING: Neil Walker is "probably opting for surgery," Terry Collins says. It will end his season. #Mets— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 1, 2016
TC not encouraging re: Walker. Back is gonna be something he must manage from here on out. Will need plenty of time off.— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) August 30, 2016
A herniated disc is the culprit. GM Sandy Alderson had tried to stay positive, saying that Walker could play through the issue, but obviously that is off the table if Walker is choosing to go under the knife.
About to hit the free agent market, Walker was putting up the numbers of a man who would have easily found a job. Free agency will be light on infielders of Walker’s caliber this year, as the 30-year-old slashed .282/.347/ .476 with 23 HR (Second in this category on the Mets only to Yoenis Cespedes) and contributed 2.5 WAR in his first year in Flushing. He will be replaced by a contingent of lesser performers, including Kelly Johnson, Wilmer Flores, Jose Reyes and T.J. Rivera.
Every day, it seems the Mets are losing (or getting back) a key player from injury. The ever-swinging clubhouse door is not ideal for a team scuffling to overtake the more stable wild-card competitors in San Francisco and St. Louis, and leaves Terry Collins with less and less to work with every day. Word is he might be out a starting pitcher for the rest of the season as well.