Jeff McNeil has saved the New York Mets in a whole lot of ways over the years. Most obvious is his ability to play multiple positions. One could argue he's just as solid defensively in the corner outfield as he is at second base. He’ll probably never win a Gold Glove anywhere but you know he won’t embarrass himself and could always end up stealing a few runs.
The Mets have options with McNeil. And next year, one of those choices involves moving him into left field.
Although unproven over a long period of time, the Mets already have Ronny Mauricio available as a starting second base option. No one within the organization looks poised to make the Opening Day roster as their starting left fielder unless you want to pencil DJ Stewart in for the job there or in right field with Starling Marte swapping corners.
Should we pass on the thought or play into McNeil in left field when the 2024 season starts? The answer is easy.
Why the Mets should pass on making Jeff McNeil the main left fielder
McNeil should remain an option in both corner outfield spots and anywhere else they may need his help at. However, going into next year with McNeil as the starting left fielder seems dreary. It would likely mean the club didn't have an adventurous offseason.
Although power wasn't as big of an issue as projected this past year, the Mets need to find some corner outfield option with pop. Marte is a huge unknown. Brandon Nimmo shouldn't be expected to hit over 20 home runs again nor do we need him to at the expense of striking out more. The absence of power in the outfield is glaring.
Moving McNeil to the outfield results in Mauricio at second base which isn't horrible but it is a commitment the Mets should be shy about making. Mauricio can also supplement them at third base in case Brett Baty struggles again. In fact, if the team is keeping both of them around, we should see a whole lot of shuffling with the DH spot routinely getting handed to a different player each night and several guys playing more than one defensive position.
The Mets don't need to go gigantic with a corner outfield addition. A guy like Tommy Pham could be perfect to give them someone who starts if he plays well or moves to a part-time role when he doesn't.
We already know whatever the Mets plan for next season won’t come true anyway because that’s just how life is. McNeil could very well end up playing more left field than anywhere else. It happened in 2019 and again in 202. If Mauricio and Baty prove themselves and their best defensive spots are at second base and third base respectively, moving McNeil could be the only way to keep them all.
It’s a big “if.” Mauricio cooled off following a hot start to his major league career. Baty had all season to heat up yet never fully thawed.
McNeil ended up with 57 starts in the outfield this past season and another 94 at second base. The year prior he had 44 outfield starts and 95 at second base. It seems pretty consistent that about a third of his starts will naturally end up as an outfielder.