NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, December 10, 2015, 1:22 AM
NASHVILLE — After being spurned by their so-called top target on Tuesday night, the Mets moved quickly onto bigger plans to reshape their shaky middle infield Wednesday. The team agreed to a two-year deal with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera hours after a trade that brought in second baseman Neil Walker.
The deal with Cabrera was not expected to be finalized until Thursday morning, a Mets source said.
Cabrera, a switch-hitter, agreed to a two-year deal worth $ 18.5 million with the Mets Wednesday night, according to industry sources. That came just hours after the Mets had sent lefthander Jon Niese to the Pirates for the switch-hitting second baseman Walker.
The 30-year-old Venezuelan hit .265 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI last season for the Rays. He is a career .267 hitter with a .329 on-base percentage and a .740 OPS.
After three years of scouring the market for an experienced shortstop, the Mets were able to pull off a surprising deal for one in the wake of losing their “offseason priority” Ben Zobrist to the Cubs. Coincidentally — and perhaps how the negotiations remained under the radar here this week — Cabrera is represented by the same agent as Zobrist. A team source said they also liked the fact that Cabrera can play second and third, which will be critical with David Wright needing days off because of his spinal stenosis.
Walker said he could also play third if needed, but the Mets just felt he was the perfect short-term move at second base. “He was on our short list, but didn’t we know if he would be available. We view him as a real positive to the alternative we were looking to do the other day,” Mets assistant GM John Ricco said. “He fits on a lot of different levels. He’s a switch hitter, he’s got some power, he’s a real good fit for our team.”
Jonathon Niese appears on his way out of New York.
The move shores up the Mets’ shaky middle-infield, which was on display during the World Series, highlighted by Daniel Murphy’s error in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the World Series sunk the Mets into a 3-1 hole. This effectively eliminated any possibility of Murphy’s return to the Mets. With Walker due to become a free agent after 2016, this allows Dilson Herrera more time to develop while still being seen as the organization’s second baseman of the future.
“The fact we have Dilson definitely opened up more possibilities for us,” Ricco said. “We didn’t need to look for guys, we could control for a long period of time. In some ways it was more attractive that he’s not.”
Walker, 30, hit .269 with 32 doubles, 16 home runs and 71 RBI in 151 games for Pittsburgh in 2015. His 16 home runs were tied for most by a National League second baseman while his .328 on-base percentage was tied for third-best among NL second basemen. Walker hit a career-high 23 home runs to win a Louisville Silver Slugger award in 2014 (but never an All Star as the Mets repeatedly said Wednesday evening.)
“He’s one of those guys who gets big hits,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “He’s a good defender, I think he’s an outstanding player. He certainly helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win a lot of games. Think this is a good guy for us.”
He fills Murphy’s role in the lineup — possibly a No.2 hitter Collins said — and is a much better defensive second baseman.
The Mets have been in contact with Bartolo Colon’s agents about bringing him back as a possible starter who could move to the bullpen as soon as Zack Wheeler is back from Tommy John surgery in June or July. “The nice thing is we do have a lot of options. (Rafael) Montero, (Logan) Verrett, (Sean) Gilmartin and we’ve got Zack Wheeler on the horizon,” Ricco said… Matt Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, said the Mets haven’t approached him about an extension before the right-hander heads into arbitration. “With a player that caliber it does happen, but probably not until January,” Boras said. The uber agent is known for taking his clients to free agency, however… Niese did not go without a parting shot. “I’m sure what I’ll appreciate more than anything is the way (the Pirates) play defense. I’m looking forward to that,” Niese told Pirates writers.