It’s not correct to call Jeff McNeil the starting second baseman for the New York Mets. Through the early going, he is also seeing some significant action in left field, too.
The Mets have regularly taken advantage of McNeil’s ability to move around the field. Even last year, when second base looked like his and his alone, the team was able to shift him over to left field in the final weeks of the season and instead deploy a double play combo of Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor.
This year, the only player vying for starts at second base is Robinson Cano. They’ve shared duties thus far in large part because the Mets have needed to use McNeil in left field during the absence of Mark Canha and Brandon Nimmo. The Swiss Army Man of Flushing is officially back in other ways, too. He is hitting well and while it doesn’t include much power, the contact-first McNeil has made the front office look wise for not trading him over the offseason.
The Mets have used Jeff McNeil to their advantage
There are a few different lineups the Mets could use in the absence of Canha and Nimmo. They have the outfield help. J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith have both seen significant time in left field. Rookie Nick Plummer could also be a viable candidate. The first instinct of manager Buck Showalter, however, was to simply shift McNeil there, put Cano at second base, and ask someone else to assume the DH role.
The Mets are a team well-built to withstand a major injury because of the wide number of positions their players can tackle. McNeil, more than anyone else, is capable of moving around from day-to-day and filling in just about any void.
McNeil’s offensive numbers are also what we would expect him to do. A home run on his birthday kicked things off. Aside from that, McNeil is back to being more of a singles hitter although I’m sure a few line drive doubles are on their way as well.
Reports of the Mets shopping McNeil over the winter had many fans torn. Outside of acquiring a starting pitcher, the trade rumors never made much sense. Replacing him at his best is difficult. The Mets, wisely or because they simply didn’t get any offers good enough, held on.
Sometimes the best moves a front office can make is doing nothing at all. With McNeil, they invited him back. So far, it’s looking like the Mets were right to practice abstinence when it came to a McNeil trade.