Mets: A Jeff McNeil contract extension makes sense for both sides

Jul 7, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, United States; New York Mets infielder Jeff McNeil (6) reacts during batting practice during workouts at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 7, 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, United States; New York Mets infielder Jeff McNeil (6) reacts during batting practice during workouts at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

A contract extension with Jeff McNeil isn’t a priority for the New York Mets, but it still makes a whole lot of sense for them to start thinking about it.

Whenever a player gets a contract extension ahead of schedule, there are a few important factors for both sides to consider. Depending on who you are, where you grew up, and which poor genes your parents passed along to you will make up what you think is most valuable for a possible contract extension. Whatever it is you have as your checkmarks, I’m sure New York Mets star Jeff McNeil crosses most, if not all, of them off.

Since debuting in 2018, McNeil has been predictably productive. The only time we didn’t know what to expect from him was in the second half of 2019 when he traded in batting aver for power.

Either way, we have come to expect a few things from McNeil. He’s hitting a perfect three for three with a .300 average or better. A doubles-machine with a great ability to put the ball in play and cover a multitude of positions, he is the true definition of a super-utility man.

The one thing we can doubt about McNeil is his future with the Mets. Just about every trade scenario speculated upon involving the team from Flushing seems to include at least some bozo believing McNeil should swap uniforms.

It’s not such an outrageous idea. Through his first 1,000+ plate appearances, McNeil has proven he could get almost any trade done. However, it’s important the Mets hold onto him and even consider what a contract extension with this underdog could look like.

McNeil turns 29 in April and won’t even be eligible for arbitration until the following year. He hasn’t made big baseball money quite yet. The Mets, with deeper pockets than ever before, may want to think otherwise and reward him.

There’s certainly no urgency to do so. Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman are all ahead of him. Not extending them is a larger risk as each has free agency looming.

As a latecomer to Major League Baseball, McNeil looks like a near-perfect candidate to get a team-friendly extension. He may not have much of a choice. Without an extension, he’ll enter free agency for the first time while approaching his mid-30s.

Taking this all into consideration, what would a McNeil extension actually look like?

How much is Jeff McNeil worth to the Mets?

McNeil hasn’t shown any signs that his play on the field is fluky. Even if his numbers do end up diving in the coming seasons, he is able to do enough to justify an extension. By hitting to contact—something I don’t believe goes away—and having the ability to play multiple positions, he’s at worst a really good bench player to have around.

The Mets can start small with the extension. Reward him with a number in the low millions. Let the number rise each year to something both the team and player can live with.

Because of the timing when he will reach free agency doesn’t bode well for his first contract beyond arbitration years, McNeil could still come out as a winner on a deal that might look friendly for the team. If he continues to grow as a player, though, perhaps he sees how much money DJ LeMahieu gets this winter and believes enough in himself to take the risk a few years from now.

The Mets don’t need to ensure McNeil returns as a member of their organization. They can, however, lock him for his best years ahead.

I don’t see the Mets spending any more than they have to this offseason or next with early extensions for guys like McNeil. Steve Cohen didn’t become a multi-billionaire by donating to charity. It’s a luxury he can do because of wise financial planning.

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McNeil is invaluable to the Mets. An extension might not be around the corner, but it shouldn’t definitely be on the mind of Jared Porter in the coming seasons.