Was trading Neil Walker to the Mets really worth it?


On Wednesday, Neil Walker was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Jon Niese from the New York Mets.

Initially, the idea of the Pirates getting something in exchange for Neil Walker this offseason was something wanted by most fans, and a something that was expected from the Pirates organization. However, the trade for a pitcher who is coming off of possibly his worst season in the past five years? It’s maybe something to dive into deeper to find out how much we exactly got out of the trade.

When determining the value of a trade, there are three main components to comparing players:

  1. The players recent performance.
  2. The players contract.
  3. The players age.

So let’s begin with the first. Player performance is hard to dive into in this trade, because comparing a second baseman to a pitcher stat wise isn’t the easiest thing to do. The only credible statistic when doing this type of comparison would be Wins Above Replacement, or WAR for short. For those unaware, WAR is a sabermetric statistic that determines the number of additional wins a players team has above the number of team wins expected if that player were to be substituted by a replacement player.

Neil Walker held a 2.4 WAR in 2015, which means the Pirates won about two and a half more games with Neil Walker in at second than they would have with a minor leaguer in his position. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but anyone with an above two war is considered to be worth hanging on to.

So how does Jon Niese compare? Not well. Niese put up an 0.2 WAR in 2015. Even the season before that, which was considered to be his best season, he still only held a 1.7 WAR. So performance wise, Neil Walker wins this one by a landslide.

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Now onto the contracts. Neil Walker earned $8 million in 2015, and is due a raise due to arbitration. At most, I see him getting $14-$15 million a year. As far as Niese goes, he is guaranteed $9 million in the 2016 season, with team options of $10 million in 2017 and $11 million in 2018.

In order to opt-out of those options, the Pirates will have to pay Niese an extra 500k. So, if Niese competes at the same level he has in the past this upcoming season, we’re looking at $9 million for an at best third starter, most likely fourth in the rotation. That’s a lot of money to give up when you could’ve spent the extra few million to keep Walker on the team.

Then as far as age goes, Niese is 29 and Walker is 30, so pretty much dead even in that category.

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With all of that in consideration, it’s hard to see the upside of Niese. Who knows though, maybe Pitching Coach Ray Searage has something up his sleeve that we don’t know about, and can turn Niese into an all-star. Only time will tell.