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Jeff McNeil and Mets Reach A Deal to Extend Contract for $50 Million

Jeff McNeil (Photo: Corey Sipkin)

National League batting champion Jeff McNeil and the New York Mets reached an agreement on Friday for a four-year, $50 million contract extension, sources familiar with the deal.

This agreement ensures that one of the team’s core players will remain in Queens as the Mets aim to secure their first World Series title since 1986.

McNeil, who will turn 31 a week after Opening Day, was initially set to go to an arbitration trial with the Mets, requesting $7.75 million while the team offered $6.25 million.

However, the gap in their offers led to discussions about extending McNeil’s contract beyond his remaining two years of arbitration, resulting in a deal that buys out multiple free agent seasons.

The agreement, pending a physical, includes a fifth-year club option that could bring the total value to $63.75 million.

Because McNeil wasn’t due to reach free agency until just before his age-33 season, concerns about teams penalizing him for his age and the market’s tendency not to favor contact-oriented players made the extension more attractive.

McNeil is among the top bat-to-ball hitters in the sport, having struck out only 242 times in 2,039 career plate appearances—a strikeout rate bettered by only nine players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since McNeil’s 2018 debut.

Among those, only Michael Brantley and Luis Arraez are in McNeil’s class as a hitter. McNeil has a career .307 batting average—third behind Arraez and Freddie Freeman in that span.

Even if power isn’t a big part of McNeil’s game, he showed significant pop in 2022, hitting .326/.382/.454 with 39 doubles, 9 home runs, 62 RBIs, and just 61 strikeouts in 589 plate appearances.

Jeff McNeil (Photo: New York Mets)

McNeil’s versatility has been vital to the Mets throughout his career, as he regularly moved among second base and the corner outfield spots.

Last season, he played a career-high 106 games at second base and was well above average there, while also spending 47 games in the outfield for a team that won 101 games but lost to the San Diego Padres in the wild-card round.

Given that the average annual value (AAV) of the deal is $12.5 million, the Mets’ competitive balance tax (CBT) bill will continue to grow.

The expected CBT hit would have been either of the arbitration figures, but McNeil’s new CBT number will reflect the AAV and incur a 90% tax on the $4.25 million-to-$5.75 million overage.

The Mets’ new projected payroll plus tax is around $467 million, setting a new major league record.

For the Mets, future savings could justify the penalty. In his five big league seasons, McNeil has accumulated more than 16 wins above replacement, and his skill set typically ages well.

However, the potential increase in batting averages due to the implementation of a pitch clock and a ban on defensive shifts could make McNeil’s skills less unique.

Of course, McNeil’s batting average could also improve, and aside from his anomalous .251 in 2021, his season averages have been .329, .318, .311, and .326.

He is expected to be part of an infield in 2023 that includes first baseman Pete Alonso, shortstop Francisco Lindor—with whom he had an infamous dugout incident in 2021, although they have since reconciled—and a combination of Eduardo Escobar, Luis Guillorme, and rookie Brett Baty at third base.

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