Last week, we looked at what a possible Pete Alonso contract extension would look like for the New York Mets. Now, it’s time to look at Jeff McNeil.
Breaking into the scene together in 2019, Alonso and McNeil have a rare opportunity to be one of the great duos in franchise history. They already have established a small legacy together, but if both are extended, they can truly become historic.
The big question is, what would it cost for the Mets to keep Jeff McNeil in Queen long-term?
With Alonso, it was easy to make a comparison. He’s a power-hitting, poor-fielding corner infielder. The player comps — Rafael Devers, Matt Olson and Chris Davis — were obvious.
With McNeil, it’s a lot more difficult. He’s almost in a category all by himself.
Since 2018, there are only five players who have played at least 500 games and posted a batting average over .300 in that span: Freddie Freeman, Michael Brantley, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and McNeil.
Statistically, Brantley probably stacks up the best to McNeil. However, he doesn’t have a true contract that can be used as a comparison. Over the past four seasons, Brantley has played on two separate 2-year, $32 million deals. Even if we combine them into a 4-year, $64 million deal, that probably doesn’t come close to getting the job done.
As for the other three players, they all offer a lot more power than McNeil who has 46 home runs in his career. Turner, Bogaerts and Freeman all have more than doubled that since 2018. McNeil is great, but these three players are in a different weight class.
When looking over the last decade or so of Major League Baseball, there are really just two players who stand out as the closest comps to McNeil: DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon. Not only is their production similar, but they were also given contract extensions around the same age McNeil is now.
LeMahieu received a 6-year, $90 million deal from the Yankees before the 2021 season. He was a free agent so it technically wasn’t an extension, but he had spent the prior two years in the Bronx. Going into his age-32 season, LeMahieu was just coming off winning the 2020 AL Batting Title. Granted, it was a 60-game season, but LeMahieu did hit .364 with a 1.011 OPS, so he crushed it regardless.
LeMahieu compares well to McNeil. Both players are natural second basemen but are more than capable of fielding multiple positions. In the five years leading up to LeMahieu’s contract, he hit .320/.376/.473 with a .849 OPS and 116 OPS+.
Through the first five seasons of McNeil’s career (he played 63 games in 2018 before his breakout 2019), he hit .307/.370/.458 with a .827 OPS and 128 OPS+.
As for Blackmon, the Rockies gave him a 6-year, $108 million deal before the 2018 season, buying out his final year of arbitration. Just like LeMahieu, he also won the batting title the year before he received his extension, as it would be for McNeil too if the Mets extended him this offseason.
Blackmon might compare even better to McNeil than LeMahieu does. Blackmon got his extension after his age-30 season, which is the season McNeil just completed. In the five years leading up to his deal, he hit .308/.364/.508 with a .871 OPS and 119 OPS+.
Yes, he did hit for a lot more power than McNeil, but he also was playing in Colorado. Playing in the high altitude in Colorado is reflected in his OPS+, which is why McNeil has him beat despite an OPS almost 50 points lower. It impacts LeMahieu as well, who spent the first seven seasons of his career in Colorado before joining the Yankees.
LeMahieu and Blackmon in their primes were stars, but they were not superstars. They’re pretty much the same caliber of player as McNeil, someone who can make a couple of All-Star games and win a batting title, but not quite that elite-level talent.
Freeman, Turner, and Bogaerts each got long-term contracts with AAVs north of $25 million, and the latter two each were for 11 years. LeMahieu and Blackmon were in the $15-$20 million range for six years, which is around where McNeil’s should be. The Mets might get a small discount for buying out his last two years of arbitration, but it’s also been a few years since Blackmon and LeMahieu were signed — prices have gone up.
Prediction: 6 years, $114 million