There are additional factors which contribute to McNeil’s availability, beginning with Mets owner Steve Cohen’s perceived preference to go all in, which could mean the club will chase big fish Kris Bryant, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, among others, making McNeil available. The Mets may not want to wait for the former all-star to figure it out at the plate.
The Mariners also are reportedly in on bigger name infielders such as Story and Bryant, but with no guarantees, secondary options must be on the table, and McNeil fits the bill to some degree, and his career to date has been better than some may realize.
Year AVG OBP SLG wRC+ BABIP wOBA 2018 .329 .381 .471 136 .359 .368 2019 .318 .384 .531 144 .357 .384 2020 .311 .384 .454 131 .335 .360 2021 .251 .319 .360 93 .280 .301
His 2018-2020 numbers are very good. Of course, he fell off in 2021, and McNeil missed over a month with a strained left hamstring in the first half of the year.
If the Mariners were to acquire McNeil, they would have him under club control for the next three seasons, which takes him through his age-32 season. He is projected to make $2.5 million in 2022 in his first year of arbitration this year.
Here is a possible Mariners lineup with Jeff McNeil, who, notably, has spent more time leading off than any other spot in the order, but carries all kinds of lineup versatility:
|1||SS||J.P. Crawford (L)|
|2||2B||Adam Frazier (L)|
|3||1B||Ty France (R)|
|4||RF||Mitch Haniger (R)|
|5||3B||Jeff McNeil (L)|
|6||CF||Kyle Lewis (R)|
|7||DH||Luis Torrens (R)|
|8||LF||Jarred Kelenic (L)|
|9||C||Tom Murphy (R)|
An interesting wrinkle that could come from acquiring McNeil — or any other starting-caliber infielder — is how the likes of Abraham Toro is utilized as a result. Toro could presumably be the opening day third baseman, and adding McNeil could move Toro into more of a utility role. This adds depth, however, and having Toro on the bench and available as a quality switch hitter to fill in at second, third, and perhaps the outfield would offer Seattle something they didn’t have a year ago.
A deal for McNeil may be difficult to make since both the Mariners and Mets are trying to compete. Until the Mets have their infield set around first baseman Pete Alonso and shortstop Francisco Lindor, they’re unlikely to feel they can freely move McNeil, who can play both second and third. With their new big game hunting owner, however, they may be in on the likes of Bryant, Correa, and they do have J.D. Davis available to man third, suggesting the club is may be but one step away from using McNeil as bait to attempt to fill needs in their outfield and with their pitching staff.
Below is a comparison of McNeil’s numbers from 2018-2020 compared to some other players who have been mentioned as possible third base options for the Mariners. Notice anything?
|Jeff McNeil (2018-2020)||.319||.383||.485||137|
The Mets’ potential outcast looks to be as appealing as some of the bigger names. Last season’s numbers fell so steeply, though, he now comes with recent question marks some of the others don’t. If he can get back to his prior form, or anywhere near, he might be the most attractive option of the bunch, offering well above-average production from the left side for cheap salaries over the next three seasons, helping the club maintain big-time payroll flexibility to help land the stars they still would be seeking. McNeil wouldn’t be cheap in trade, but it’s difficult to imagine he’d cost premium talent from the Mariners’ elite farm system, another reason he could be under consideration.
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