Sources Mets hitting champ Jeff McNeil reach 50 million

Sources – Mets, hitting champ Jeff McNeil reach $50 million extension

4:04 p.m. ET

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    Jeff Passan ESPN


      ESPN MLB insider
      Author of The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports

National League batting champion Jeff McNeil and the New York Mets on Friday agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $50 million, sources familiar with the deal told ESPN to ensure one of the core players in the Teams in Queens remains while the Mets attempt to win their first World Series since 1986.

McNeil, who turns 31 a week after Opening Day, was scheduled to go to arbitration with the Mets, where he demanded $7.75 million and they offered $6.25 million. Instead, the hiatus spurred talks of keeping McNeil beyond his remaining two years of arbitration, which led to the buyout of several free-agent seasons. The deal, which is pending, includes a fifth-year club option that would bring the total to $63.75 million, sources told ESPN.

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With McNeil only set to reach free agency just before his season at age 33, the specter of teams penalizing him for his age and the market that doesn’t necessarily reward contact-oriented players made extension more attractive.

Certainly one of the pre-eminent bat-to-ball artists in the sport, McNeil has struck just 242 times in 2,039 career plate appearances — a strikeout rate surpassed by only nine players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since McNeil’s 2018 debut.

Among these are only Michael Brantley and Luis Arraez in McNeil’s batsman class. McNeil has a .307 career batting average — third behind Arraez and Freddie Freeman in that span. While power isn’t a big part of McNeil’s game, he brought plenty of pop in 2022, hitting .326/.382/.454 with 39 doubles, 9 home runs, 62 RBIs and just 61 strikeouts in 589 times on the plate.

McNeil’s versatility has proven important throughout his career for the Mets, regularly rotating between second base and outfield corners. Despite playing a career-high 106 game runner-up last season and well above average there, he also spent 47 games in the outfield for a team that won 101 games but lost to the San Diego Padres in the wildcard round .

Since the deal’s average annual value is $12.5 million, the Mets’ competitive balance sheet tax bill will continue to grow. While the expected CBT hit was one of the arbitration numbers, McNeil’s new CBT number will reflect the AAV — and entail a 90% tax on the $4.25 million to $5.75 million overage.

The Mets’ new projected gross salary plus taxes is about $467 million, which would break the major league record.

For the Mets, the savings could be worth the penalty in years to come. In his five big league seasons, McNeil has racked up more than 16 wins over the backup and his skills tend to age well. But the possibility that batting averages could increase with the introduction of a pitch clock and a ban on defensive switches could make McNeil’s skills less unique.

Of course, McNeil’s batting average could also go up, and aside from his anomalous .251 in 2021, his season numbers are .329, .318, .311, and .326. He is expected to be part of an infield in 2022 that will include first baseman Pete Alonso, shortstop Francisco Lindor – with whom he had an infamous dugout incident in 2021, although they have since reconciled – and a combination of Eduardo Escobar and Luis includes Guillorme and rookie Brett Baty at third base.