The case for the Mets to trade Jeff McNeil

Jeff McNeil hasn't been able to hide his frustrations this year
Jeff McNeil hasn't been able to hide his frustrations this year / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

Jeff McNeil was an integral part of the success of the New York Mets in 2022, winning the batting title and a Silver Slugger award while helping lead the team to the playoffs. The 2023 season has been far less successful for both McNeil and the club, though, and it feels like something's gotta give.

McNeil is far from the only Met underperforming this year. It seems like the entire team has dropped off, and the proof is in the standings. At the time of this writing, the Mets sit seven games under .500. They're 18.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves and in fourth place in the NL East. Pitiably, they're closer to the last-place Nationals in the standings than they are to the third-place Phillies.

The fact that the Mets are nowhere near the playoffs right now is problem enough for a team with the league's largest payroll, but even worse than the team's record is the toxic cloud of negativity that seems to hover over each game. No player better embodies that than McNeil.

Watch McNeil over the course of a game and you'll worry about his mental health. Every strikeout is met with a bat or helmet slam, plus a string of choice words for the umpire. When he hits the ball hard, it inevitably seems to go directly at a fielder. You've never seen a player take his batting gloves off more angrily.

McNeil is hardly alone in being frustrated with the way this Mets season has gone, but whereas most fans are able to harmlessly tweet their exasperation, McNeil's outbursts seem to be having a negative effect on the entire team. Instead of being the Flying Squirrel, this season he seems more like the squirrel that darts in front of your car in an attempt to get run over.

It feels like both Jeff McNeil and the Mets need a fresh start.

The eradication of the shift was thought to be a great thing for a player with such superior bat control, but it hasn't been the case for McNeil. His average is currently 78 points lower than it was last year, and with just three home runs and 14 doubles, his power has been practically nonexistent. Meanwhile, Mets fans don't have to leave the division to see Luis Arraez of the Marlins chasing .400. Why isn't it McNeil getting multiple hits per night?

I love Jeff McNeil. I own his jersey. I'll root for him wherever he plays. I love the Tony Gwynn, throwback type of player he's always been, a breath of fresh air in a game that values the three true outcomes too much and making contact too little.

McNeil has played for the Mets his entire career, and he earned himself a four-year, $50 million contract this past offseason. He's well-versed with the pressure of playing in New York, but are the expectations of living up to the deal getting to him? Or is he one of the many Mets that has become collateral damage in a lost season?

More than any player in baseball, McNeil seems like a guy that could benefit from a change of scenery. A fresh start in a new place could allow him to reset and get back to being one of baseball's best contact hitters. Any team contending for a playoff spot could use his bat, and his defensive versatility would allow him to plug in all over the field.

Moving on from McNeil could open the door for Ronny Mauricio to finally get his call to the big leagues, but perhaps more importantly, it might lift the black cloud that's been hanging over the Mets for most of the season.

Last year's team was exciting and fun to watch. Epic comebacks, walk-off wins, delirious crowds at Citi Field; it seemed there was nothing the Mets couldn't do. With few exceptions, that hasn't been the case this season. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away. No one move is going to fix these Mets, but trading Jeff McNeil could be a move that benefits both the player and the team.