clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Candidates for the Mets’ next contract extension, Part 2

New, 20 comments

In the wake of the Jacob deGrom extension, we continue to review other players who are wise contract extension candidates for the Mets.

MLB: Game Two-Miami Marlins at New York Mets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

As free agency continues to die a slow, protracted death, the Mets finally got in on the contract extension bonanza by locking up Jacob deGrom long term. The Mets have a really solid core of young talent and no shortage of other candidates for contract extensions. Last week, Maggie Wiggin made the argument for extending Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Pete Alonso. Here I present three other extension candidates, who are all further away from free agency than deGrom and Syndergaard, but can probably be locked up pretty cheaply at this stage.

Brandon Nimmo

This season will be the final season in which Brandon Nimmo will be making league minimum, as he will be arbitration-eligible next year and is due to hit free agency in 2023. And if he has another season anything like his 2018 breakout season, he will certainly get a decent chunk of change in arbitration and the window to extend him cheaply may be almost closed.

This is why it makes a ton of sense to extend Nimmo right now. He doesn’t have the track record of multiple seasons of 4+ WAR production under his belt, which is why he won’t command the amount that young stars like Alex Bregman did. But he does have one such season and it was a season where his wRC+ was second only to the NL MVP among National League hitters. As far as indications that 2018 was no fluke and Nimmo will continue to be a very good major league player go, Sung Min Kim recently wrote a piece for Fangraphs in which he points out how eerily similar Bobby Abreu’s early career matches Brandon Nimmo’s path when it comes to walk rates, power numbers, and batted ball profile. Of course, no one is saying Nimmo is going to be Bobby Abreu, but showing similar tendencies to a player who will certainly get Hall of Fame consideration is certainly exciting and some assurance that locking him up now is the right thing to do.

In the recent wave of contract extensions, there was obviously the group of elite starting pitchers that included deGrom and there was also a group of star position players that included Bregman, Mike Trout, and Paul Goldschmidt. And finally, in the mold of the Scott Kingery contract, there was the Eloy Jiminez extension—a team-friendly deal that banks on a prospect who has yet to see major league time turning into a star, or at the very least, a productive major leaguer. So it’s difficult to find a good framework for an extension for someone like Nimmo, who is somewhere in between as of yet unproven prospect with sky high potential and young superstar. I would argue that the closest comparison in the recent set of extensions is the one Aaron Hicks just signed with the Yankees for 7 years, $70 million with a club option for 2026. Hicks has been in the major leagues for longer than Nimmo has and is closer to free agency, but he really only broke out in 2017 with the Yankees and produced at a similar level to Nimmo in 2018, as measured by fWAR. The 26-year-old Nimmo also has the advantage of being younger than Hicks, who is 29. Six to seven years at roughly $10 million AAV seems like a reasonable structure for a theoretical Nimmo extension and something the Mets should seriously consider.

Amed Rosario

Rosario’s free agency timeline is one year behind Nimmo’s and he is set to be a free agent in 2024. His case is a trickier one than Nimmo’s. He doesn’t have the breakout season to point to that would mitigate the risk of committing to him long-term. But he does have the prospect pedigree and the ceiling—a ceiling someone like Nimmo didn’t have when he was emerging as a major leaguer. And he did show encouraging signs at the end of the 2018 season and in spring training this year.

Matt Cerrone of SNY spoke to MLB analysts with rival teams in February about what contract extensions for certain Mets players might look like. One of them said, “Nimmo’s tools are more sound, more predictable. Because of his fundamentals, I’d be more confident when recommending his extension to our owners than I would Rosario, who is still a bit of a wild card for me. I just have a better sense of Nimmo’s floor than I do Rosario.”

This is probably a fair assessment, but as such, the combination of this uncertainty with the fact that Rosario is one year further away from free agency means that he would likely be cheaper to extend than Nimmo would. The group of analysts Cerrone spoke to presented a six-year, $45 million deal as a plausible contract extension for Rosario. Solidifying the shortstop position for many years to come should certainly be attractive to a team that let Jose Reyes walk while he was still in his prime.

Jeff McNeil

Jeff McNeil is perhaps the most under the radar extension candidate on the Mets, but one can make an argument that he may be the most prudent extension of all. Having just recently lost rookie eligibility, McNeil is the furthest from free agency of these three players, but he would also probably be the cheapest to extend. He absolutely burst onto the scene last season, putting up one of the most impressive second-half rookie campaigns in franchise history. His excellent contact ability at the plate and positional versatility have already made him indispensable to the 2019 Mets.

That said, McNeil never had the prospect pedigree of Rosario or even of Nimmo, partially due to injuries derailing his minor league career, leading to his late major league debut at age 26. This means that his prime years will be cheap ones for the Mets, which depresses the motivation to consider an extension on the team’s part. But his delayed timeline when it comes to his age combined with the risky injury profile make him solid candidate to want to secure his future and cash in now at a rate far below what a player who has had a full season with similar numbers to his rookie campaign perhaps would.

The Scott Kingery extension with the Phillies may be instructive here. That deal was for six years and $24 million—which seems reasonable on an AAV basis for a player like McNeil—but included three very hefty club options tacked onto the end that would nearly triple the total value of the deal if exercised. Similarly, Whit Merrifield signed a team friendly four-year, $16.25 million extension with the Royals this winter while still pre-arbitration and he profiles rather comparably to McNeil, although is older. Perhaps a modified version of the Kingery framework would make sense, where McNeil’s arbitration years are bought out very cheaply, but a handsome club option or two are added onto the end of the contract to reward him if he sustains what he is doing right now to incentivize commitment on McNeil’s part.

Nimmo, Rosario, and McNeil are three players who it seems unlikely the Mets will extend right now because they are still paying all three of them league minimum for the time being. However, if Nimmo puts up another season like 2018, his arbitration price tag is sure to rise. And Rosario and McNeil feel like really solid “buy low” candidates that the Mets should consider for extensions.