Jeff McNeil has shot up the charts as one of the likeliest New York Mets players to get traded before the 2022 season begins. The Mets are reportedly open to shopping him when the lockout ends, putting the once untouchable second baseman/utility man on the trade block in a move nobody saw coming a year ago.
McNeil’s name has appeared in previous trade rumors. Each time, the Mets have balked. This time, it could be different.
Over at Southside Showdown, Fansided’s Chicago White Sox blog, Vincent Parise took a look at what a great fit he would be for the club. I agree, but I had one question: what could the Mets actually get back in return?
What can the White Sox offer the Mets in a Jeff McNeil trade?
I wrote previously that the Mets should only trade McNeil under one circumstance. As it turns out, it’s exactly what they are looking to get in return for him.
New York is shopping McNeil with the hope of landing a starting pitcher. It’s truly their biggest hole at the moment. Behind Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, there are too many questions to ask.
The White Sox had one of the better pitching staffs in 2021. They already lost Carlos Rodon to free agency, leaving them with one less arm they can turn to in 2022. Unfortunately, the best starting pitcher the Mets can probably hope to acquire in a deal with McNeil as the headliner isn’t so impressive.
Remember a few years ago when Dallas Keuchel was a desirable free agent? Mets fans wanted him. He was one of the guys who helped turn around the Houston Astros organization—and I don’t mean he plays a mean trash can.
Keuchel ended up signing with the Atlanta Braves late in 2019 after the deadline passed where any team that did ink him to a deal would no longer lose a draft pick. He had a productive 19-start season featuring an 8-8 record and 3.75 ERA. The next season, now with the White Sox, Keuchel made 11 starts and finished 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA. The shortened 2020 season included a fifth-place Cy Young vote for Keuchel as well.
Last season wasn’t nearly as superb. Keuchel, in 30 starts and a pair of relief appearances, was 9-9 with a 5.28 ERA. Despite winning a Gold Glove, it wasn’t a successful second year in Chicago.
Adding to any reluctance to trade McNeil for Keuchel is the contract. Keuchel is set to take home $18 million in 2022 with a $20 million salary or $1.5 million buyout the following season. Approaching his age 34 campaign, we can’t expect his best days to be in the future.
If it’s not Keuchel the White Sox are trading to the Mets, the only other realistic option might be Craig Kimbrel. The other guy who had to wait months to sign in 2019, Kimbrel is an ex-best closer in baseball whose 2021 season rivaled what Taijuan Walker did in Queens. His 39 appearances for the Chicago Cubs early on included an ERA of 0.49 plus 23 saves. When he was traded to the White Sox, Kimbrel imploded. He had a 5.09 ERA for them in 23 innings of work.
As far as money is concerned, Kimbrel is set to take home $16 million in 2022 in what will be the final year of his contract.
Keuchel and Kimbrel are not the answer for the Mets in any trade involving McNeil. Sure, he’s coming off of a rough season as well. In a different circumstance, maybe the deal makes a little more sense.
In the present one, it looks like McNeil might be a match for Chicago but what the Mets are looking for isn’t there. Perhaps a three-way deal could be the way to go.