MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Mets lose Walker as Nats, Murphy return

NY's 2015 postseason star is thriving with Washington

Mets lose Walker as Nats, Murphy return

NEW YORK -- These are the unintended consequences of the moves a team makes or doesn't make:

This past offseason, the Mets elected not to re-sign second baseman Daniel Murphy. They couldn't sign Ben Zobrist, who went to the Cubs. And so they traded pitcher Jonathon Niese to Pittsburgh for Neil Walker.

On Thursday, before the Mets dropped a 6-4 decision to the Marlins at Citi Field, Walker confirmed that he's having surgery to relieve a herniated disk in his lower back. His season is over.

On Friday, the .341-hitting Murphy comes into town with the Nationals, who are running away from the Mets this season in the National League East.

Walker said the disk has been a chronic problem that was once relieved by an epidural, but he is now pressing on a nerve that's causing numbness in his toes and affecting his lower body. That's why he's having the surgery now.

"The more I pushed through it, the more I realized I was hurting the team and myself," Walker said. "I had to be honest with what was going on here. This was a very tough decision. I want nothing more than to be on the field. It's very disappointing in my eyes."

The Nats signed Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million contract, and he comes in with an incredible slash line of .341/.384/.600, and 25 homers, 98 RBIs and a .984 OPS.

Walker had a fine season for the Mets, with a slash line of .282/.347/.476. He hit 23 homers, drove in 55 runs and had a .823 OPS.

"I mean, you don't have a crystal ball to say what Dan Murphy is going to do next season," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "You can't take away anything that Dan Murphy has done, but getting Neil Walker was an outstanding deal. It was a huge pickup. He played very well for us."

Collins was quick to acknowledge that Murphy carried the Mets for most of this past postseason. He set a record by homering in six consecutive playoff games, including the Mets' sweep of the Cubs in the NL Championship Series.

This year, Murphy is simply drop-kicked Mets pitching, hitting .423 (22-for-52) with eight homers, 22 RBIs and 11 runs scored. At Citi Field, he's done basically half of that damage, with four homers, 11 hits and 14 RBIs. Murphy's OPS in seven games here this season is 1.348. The Nationals have won five of those seven games.

Mets fans booed Murphy after every one of his productive at-bats.

"I guess that means you're doing something to help your ballclub win a game that day against that team," Murphy said back in July, the last time the two teams played here. "So that's the way I'll look at it."

The fact is that Walker has been playing well of late, too. He batted .389 for August with six homers and 10 RBIs, by far his best month of the season.

But Walker deemed that he was a detriment to both the team and himself.

"Let's put it this way, I probably would've been playing at 60 percent," Walker said when asked why he was having the surgery now. "I just didn't think that was the right thing for me to do, or to do to the team."

Be that as it may, the Mets are now in the stretch run attempting to snare a Wild Card berth, playing with a dramatically different team than the one that won 90 games and outdistanced the Nats by seven games last season to win the division.

The infield that lost the World Series in five games last fall to the Royals is essentially no more. Third baseman David Wright and first baseman Lucas Duda are out for the season. Wilmer Flores, the shortstop back then, was at second base Wednesday night.

Jose Reyes has returned to play short, with backup specialist Kelly Johnson at third. James Loney is the first baseman.

Collins is well aware that you must clinch a playoff spot with the team you have, not the one you wish for.

"Certainly, we've made a lot of changes, which you have to do when guys are down," Collins said. "But it's been remarkable to me some of the guys who have stepped up. Every year you look at guys who emerge on the scene and make a big difference.

"Whether it's last year with Kelly and Juan [Uribe] and Tyler Clippard and [Addison] Reed and [Yoenis Cespedes]. And this year you've got some guys down and some guys who've stepped up and they're playing well. We've made some good additions."

Newcomers Reyes, Loney, Asdrubal Cabrera and company are going to have to fill in the blanks. Murphy will be returning for this weekend's three-game series to the usual reception.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.