This offseason, Jeff McNeil solidified his future by signing a four year, $50 million contract extension with the New York Mets. McNeil, whose name has come up many times since his debut as a potential trade piece, is now poised to spend most of, if not his entire career, in Queens. It was a great move for both sides, since McNeil now can play without any future decisions looming over his head, and the Mets have locked down one of their best hitters for years to come.
McNeil, since his debut in 2018, has been of the Mets’ most exciting players. His game is built around his ability to put the ball in play and hit for a high average. Over the course of his five seasons in the league (with his first season starting halfway through the 2018 season) he’s hit .307/.370/.458 with a 131 wRC+ and has been worth a total of 16.1 fWAR. Those numbers are lower than last season, and are being brought down a bit by his bad 2021, when he hit .251/.319/.360 with a below average 92 wRC+. He has also been a key utility player for the Mets. While he has (and will probably) spent the majority of his time at second base, he has also find time at third base and both corner outfield spots.
Last year was McNeil’s best year in the league. He hit .326/.382/.454 with a 143 wRC+ and a career high 5.9 fWAR, which was the second highest in terms of Mets position players (just below Francisco Lindor). He made his second All-Star Game appearance in his career, was the National League and MLB batting champion, and won his first Silver Slugger. It was more than just a bounce-back season, it was a statement showing his worth to the team and just how good he can be when playing to his full potential.
He should have a very good season this year. Fangraphs’ ZiPS projections have him hitting .289/.353/.419, with a 125 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR. Those projections are also being dragged down by 2021, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see McNeil outperform those expectations. As long as McNeil stays healthy, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone to see him back in the hunt for another batting title.
Of course, staying healthy is the big caveat here. Part of the reason why McNeil had a bad 2021 was injury problems. He dealt with hamstring issues throughout that season, which was plagued with injuries to key Mets. However, he’s always been a bit injury prone throughout his career. He was hurt a few times in 2019, with hamstring strains popping up twice during the season. Between 2016 and 2017 McNeil only played 51 games due to various injury issues. And in the first month of the season McNeil will turn 31, and as he gets older the injury risks grow.
Jeff McNeil has made himself an integral part of the Mets lineup, and he is now being paid as such. While the concern for injury will grow as McNeil ages, as long as his skills and abilities continue to be some of the best in the league, he will be a franchise cornerstone for the Mets for years to come.