By Jason Shetler
After 11 years in the Pirates organization, Neil Walker was dealt to the New York Mets on Wednesday for veteran lefty Jon Niese. Here now is my assessment of the trade.
With the retirement of A.J. Burnett, as well as J.A. Happ signing with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Pirates entered the Winter Meetings looking for a #3 starter as one of their main needs. Reports had ranged from the Pirates talking with Scott Kazmir’s representatives to having discussions about the Angels C.J. Wilson. The Mets were looking to fill a spot at second base with Daniel Murphy being a free agent, and their top target Ben Zobrist signing with the Chicago Cubs.
The Mets have a deep surplus of starting pitching, which likely meant they were going to part ways with one of them for the right deal. Since they needed to replace Murphy, and with the Pirates needing rotation help, the Walker/Niese deal was made. Walker can provide the offense that Murphy had given them. From the Pirates perspective, Niese is someone who has profiled as a good mid-rotation starter for most of his career. Walker didn’t have as good a season in 2015 as he did the year before, so it’s not like the Pirates were going to get a big overhaul for him. In Niese’s situation, he has a club option worth $10 million for 2017, so if were to pitch well next season, the Pirates can bring him back for another year. At the end of the day, the Pirates and Mets were able to fill important needs, which makes it a fair deal for both sides.