Any trade proposal involving the New York Mets coming from fans that bleed colors different than orange and blue seems to involve Jeff McNeil. The lifetime .299/.364/.459 hitter is on the trade block and someone the Mets are expected to shop when the lockout ends.
Meanwhile, over in Oakland, everyone on the Athletics appears to be available. They’re expected to go through a major phase of re-tooling/building with as much salary shed from the payroll as possible. We may find it a little silly considering their highest projected salary will go to Matt Olson at a rather modest $12 million.
The A’s and the Mets are a match in any trade discussion for a couple of reasons. The Mets have an endless supply of money (or so it feels), the Athletics want to save as much of theirs as they can, and Oakland happens to have a pretty good starting rotation under their control. Wouldn’t you know, the Mets could use another arm.
With McNeil as the most productive trade chip on the roster and the Athletics with arms to trade, I’m curious if there’s a match here.
Would the Athletics even want Mets trade candidate Jeff McNeil?
There are a couple of things to know about McNeil before we even consider thinking about the Athletics as a destination. What’s his salary? How many years of control does he have left? Did he think the casting of Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball didn’t do the famed Athletics front office member justice in terms of handsomeness?
McNeil is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. His expected salary is $2.5 million. This is a lot less than what a fourth-year eligible guy like Sean Manaea will receive and a lower total than Chris Bassitt (third year) or Frankie Montas (second year). At least in the salary department, it seems McNeil does help the Athletics save money. Out of those three, he also has more years of control.
Those boxes are checked. But then comes the more complicated one. Are the Athletics actually intending to contend over the next three seasons?
It’s the question everyone in Las Vegas wants to know—the likely destination for the ball club within the next few seasons. The Athletics have battled with the city of Oakland about a stadium on what feels like an annual basis. With the Raiders already running away from Oakland for Sin City, it only makes sense for the Athletics to end up doing the same. It’s a franchise that has bounced around the country plenty already. Their concern at the moment isn’t to win.
A little bit biased because I like the way he plays (mostly) and have seen him enough, I view McNeil quite favorably. I don’t see him as a guy whose 2021 season marks the end of a surprising rise to success. He’s someone a team hoping to climb into the playoffs should seek, not one hoping to tear everything down.
But that doesn’t make McNeil an illogical fit for the Athletics. It’s not outrageous for them to acquire him and move on quickly to acquire what they really should be looking to add: prospects.
In any deal with a team in the A’s situation, it’s the minor leaguers you should be worried about leaving. Because they aren’t hoping to win it all next year, this leaves them with only two possible seasons of McNeil on a winning team. Depending on how deep they go in their sale, maybe they end up with only one.
I’m not opposed to trading McNeil in the right deal for any of the Athletics pitchers or even Matt Chapman.
The problem: within a year or two, he immediately becomes a trade candidate for Oakland. I know they’re headed to Vegas one day but it’s not a good gamble for them.