Since his call up in the 2017 season, Jeff McNeil has quickly made his mark on the New York Mets. Even as he has garnered headlinesnfor his strong hitting, knobless bat and defensive adventures around the diamond, it almost feels like he still is one of the more underrated players in the game.

In only 248 games played, McNeil has accumulated 9.2 bWAR, tied with Todd Hundley for 33rd all-time in Mets history. He is ahead of such names as Lucas Duda, Ron Hunt and Rusty Staub. His .319/.383/.501 career batting line is good for a 139 wRC+. He has been excellent, and one of the real bright spots on two Mets teams that have disappointed. There are no more questions if McNeil is the real deal.

Assuming an on-time start to the 2021 season, McNeil willmstill be only 28 on Opening Day, and won’t be eligible for free agency until 2025. He’s a high-end lefty hitter in his prime making a pre-arbitration salary who can passably play defense at three positions. Players like McNeil are not only on championship teams, but are the reason championship teams are championship teams.

It is obvious that McNeil fits in with the Mets moving forward, especially with the pending sale to Steve Cohen promising changes in how the team will try to compete. The question is how and where does he fit in?

McNeil’s primary defensive position for the past two years has been left field, but it’s hard to imagine keeping him there being the best thing for the team. That’s not necessarily a knock on his abilities, but rather more that left needs to be Brandon Nimmo’s home. With how Dominic Smith hit in 2020, it’s hard to imagine him not being penciled in as the DH in 2021, assuming that change is made permanent.

Even with Steve Cohen’s deep pockets, it’s hard to see the Mets benching Robinson Cano in favor of McNeil in 2021. That is especially true since Cano just put up his best offensive season since 2014 and is going to be chasing down 3,000 hits. As long as he can still be serviceable with the glove and he hits his weight, I don’t see Cano losing his starting role next year.

For the immediate future, third base seems to be the best choice for McNeil. He has shown the ability to handle the position defensively and has a bat which plays at third. J.D. Davis’ disappointing season in 2020 perfectly opens the door for a change, and outside of a 36-year-old Justin Turner there aren’t any intriguing names in free agency. That is unless the Mets go big and sign DJ LeMahieu and move him to the hot corner.

So, there it is, problem solved. McNeil is your everyday third baseman. But of course, it’s not that simple.
For the past several years, the Mets utter lack of pitching depth has come back to bite them. There are very good pitchers available both as starters and relievers as free agents this season. But if the Mets want to bring in a pitcher or two with a trade, it might be worth considering parting with McNeil.

Obviously, the Mets should not be in a rush to trade McNeil and should try to avoid doing so. But the very things that make him such a valuable player, make him an attractive trade piece. If a team wants to dump salary but bring in a low-salaried MLB player, it could be a solid match.

With Andres Gimenez, Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis all in the picture for 2021, the Mets have options at third base, even if they are less attractive than McNeil. If the Mets have the opportunity to trade from a strength to fill a weakness, it would be reckless to not at least consider it.

The same stands if the Mets decide to go the other way for 2021 and build up a minor league system that has been gutted by Brodie Van Wagenen in pursuit of a playoff berth. McNeil is the type of player who could expedite that process and bring back two or three top 15 prospects. Being under team control until 2025 could help the Mets in dealing from a position of strength.

The hope is that a Cohen ownership with Sandy Alderson back in the picture would realize keeping McNeil is a smart idea, and that making the playoffs in 2021 is attainable. Since it was Alderson who drafted him back in 2013, that might help his case to stay put.

McNeil is a good and valuable player. But of all the Mets good hitter, he is the one they could most survive parting with and come out a stronger team on the other side of the deal. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Mets to test those waters.

Joe Vasile is a play-by-play broadcaster for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Bucknell University. He hosts the baseball documentary podcast, Secondary Lead.

38 comments on “Should the Mets consider trading Jeff McNeil?

  • John Fox

    Cano to DH, McNeil to 2b. Problem solved

    • Metsense

      But not the bigger defensive problem at 3B or CF.

      • Remember1969

        Or the problem of getting at-bats for both Smith and Alonso.

      • Rae

        I agree McNeil plays 2B while Cano is your everyday DH. Cano can’t run for poop, and he is a mediocre fielder, and he is a mediocre thrower too. Either sign La Mahieu to play 3B, or give Justin Turner a shot at returning to the Mets. Of the Mets cannot work something out with the afore mentioned players then I’d even suggest trying Alonso at 3B which is his natural position. He played 3B all throughout H.S., and during his early minor league career. If Alonso’s bat bounces back to even 250 with 40 HR’s he is worth the chance. The Mets would have Smith at 1B, McNeil at 2B, Rosario and Giminez at SS, with Davis being a backup 3B man and perhaps a backup 2B man too. Forget Realmuto and sign James McCann to catch or Suzuki if the Mets can’t convince McCann to play for them. For CF I would still have Marisnick as a defensive outfielder while signing Pillar to start at CF. His 2020 stats at Center are better than Springer’s who is gonna cost a lot of money. I’d rather spend the money on re-signing Stroman, or possibly Kluber or even Rich Hill? The bullpen still needs Liam Hendriks and Treinen or even Pedro Baez.

    • Edwin e Pena

      John Fox is right. McNeil to 2B and Cano to DH, problem with McNeil is taken care of.
      If Mets can get Springer for CF, and maybe McAnn to catch, (Realmuto and Springer both is not happening) Mets will be in good shape. JD Davis seemed to improve early on at 3B, then the bat slipped. I would leave him at 3B from day one and see what happens. Guillorme can come in for late innings if needed. Rosario and Gimenez will battle at SS with the one that loses battle still seeing time as utility. Pitching staff ? Need to resign Stroman, get one more via trade, perhaps that’s Nimmo. Staff of DeGrom, Stroman, Peterson, Lugo and addition by trade is a good start, Thor comes in perhaps in July. OF is Dom, Springer, Conforto. Keep Marisnick for late defense at all OF spots.

    • Joe Vasile

      Then what do you do with Dominic Smith? Trade him?

  • Metsense

    The Mets need starting pitching in order compete in 2021. If the Mets trade McNeil they should receive a #1 starting pitcher because he is an offense star (.139 OPS) that plays four positions. Smith or Alonso or Nimmo or Conforto trade for a #2 would be more palpable. Davis and (Gimenez or Rosario) might yield a #2-3 would be sufficient. The reality is that they have to give something to get something and any combination is in play. One or more are going to be traded but I hope it isn’t McNeil.

  • Remember1969

    Joe, great job with this piece. You expertly laid out the pros and cons and your summary paragraph of “McNeil is a good and valuable player. But of all the Mets good hitter, he is the one they could most survive parting with and come out a stronger team on the other side of the deal. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Mets to test those waters.” is spot on.

    My thoughts on this (almost) match to a tee. McNeil was the starting third baseman at the beginning of the 2020 season in July and lost that spot after 5 errors in the first nine games. He did not play there again. I doubt he is as bad as an error every other game, but apparently management didn’t think he was the third baseman of the future.

    He is probably the player that would bring back the most, and would really hurt the least. I prefer trading him over either Nimmo or Smith, just because of what the return could be. A call to Cleveland to discuss a Zach Plesac or a Triston MacKenzie might draw them to the phone if Smith were on the table, I doubt they would listen for Nimmo, and they would be willing listeners if McNeil were part of the discussion. My hope is a Gsellman and McNeil and a lesser minor league piece for Zach Plesac and their #15 Joey Cantillo. McNeil being under team control until 2025 is a big plus. (Also Cleveland needs a lot of offensive help and has a hole at 2nd base.

    • Joe Vasile

      If Cleveland is okay with trading Plesac or McKenzie for McNeil I think the Mets have to do that deal. I’m not sure if they would give up one of those two and a prospect since they are both young as well, but even a one-for-one trade would help the Mets immediately.

  • NYM6986

    Love McNeil and believe we would need to be overwhelmed to move him. But no one will trade a #1 pitcher for a guy that has yet to establish himself at any one position despite his uncanny ability to get on base, his batting average, and his overall hustle. Would rather see him in the 2 hole at 2nd base with Cano at DH as mentioned. Cano can still play 2B though and turns as nice a DP as you will see. And on a reasonable contract I would snag free agent Justin Turner for a year or two at 3B. It’s not like we let a good everyday player go when he left. He has turned himself, I’m sure with better Dodger coaching, into a fine baseball player. No embarrassment bringing him back, but can’t see LA letting him get away either.

  • Mike W

    Nice article Joe. I have thought about that myself. It all depends on the other koves that are made. Who do we trade besides McNeill, who we get back and what free agents do we sign.

    What team likes talented young inexpensive versatile controlable position players like Smith and McNeill? The Rays. What team always is stacked with prospects? The Rays.

    If we got the right players back, I would trade him. Or maybe, we keep him and trade Conforto.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Sorry, gotta keep the Squirrel. He can play third, spot in the OF. If one must be traded, maybe it’s JD Davis for a bonafide starter. Dom can play LF to keep his bat in the game. Keep Gimenez and his defense at 2B, and let Cano be the everyday DH and concentrate on his hitting and 3000 chase.
    Problem solved, dont be the nuts and keep the Squirrel.

  • JImO

    McNeil is great. I can’t see any sort of deal involving him happening this off-season.

  • Mike W

    We have to find teams that match up with what we have. That may be the Reds. The Reds could use a short stop and starting pitching with the loss of Bauer. We could find a home for Matz and Rosario.

    If he can stay healthy, maybe we could buy low on Nick Senzel.

    I do like the idea of a good veteran third baseman. (Please, no more of Frazier) Turner would work on a short deal. LeMahieu would he better, but will cost a lot more money.

  • Dennis Spellman

    He is about the only player aside from Jacob degrom who I would not trade. You are right he is a valuable trade piece but I would say that you could get the same type of trade pieces for Dom Smith & lose a lot less versatility. McNeil can play at least three positions pretty well & that is one of the new baseball dictum’s that you must have at least a couple of players with that type of versatility. McNeil is the guy & you can pretty much count on him almost every time up having a good to great at bat, he is to valuable to trade.

  • Chris F

    McNeil is not a third baseman. That would lead to so many problems it’s hard to imagine. he led the league in errors in his short run at 3B, and as was mentioned above dropped confidence enough for The FO to take it away from him. Even if one thinks he’s not as bad as he played, he will always be a significant liability at 3B. The errors were rough too. The throw is too long and that ball comes at 3B too fast. He’s *not* a major league third baseman.

    Although McNeil has a bit of a Ben Zobrist profile, I’d like to see him get most ABs at 2B, giving Cano 2 starts per week and time at DH, which is where he is headed. But If he needs To be traded to make the team better, like everyone, then do it.

    • Metsense

      McNeil’s Rdrs is best at 3B than any other position he plays. 2B is his worst position.
      Davis at 3B is worst than Cano at 2B based on Rdrs. Defensively McNeil at 3B and Cano at 2B is the better defensive lineup. McNeil was predominantly a 3B in the minors.

  • Bob P

    I agree with Metsense’s comment above. Pitching is the biggest problem now and if McNeil goes we need something big back for him. The Mets have Alonzo, Smith, Cano, McNeil, Rosario, Gimenez, Davis, Conforto and Nimmo which makes 9 hitters for 7 defensive positions (6 if you aren’t willing to go with Nimmo or any of the others in CF) and the DH if it is made permanent. Of all of them I believe McNeil has the most trade value being pre-arb, having put up 3 very strong and consistent offensive years and being versatile in the field. He’s a keeper to me unless you can get a really great package back. At least one or two from that group may need to go to fill other needs. Anyone should be on the table but only for the right deal. The deal for McNeil would have to better than any of the others to me.

  • Chris

    I think the guys the Mets should look to move are Alonso, Davis, Rosario and Gsellman.

    I’m sure everyone will disagree with Alonso but since the second half last year his numbers are not that good. Smith is a better hitter and a much better 1b.

    I’d trade some combo of above for pitching. Can Cano play 3b? If so, put McNeil at 2b. If not, then I like the idea of Turner on a two year deal.

    If they can land Springer then I’d add Nimmo to the potential trade candidates. Not saying trade all of them but that would be the “pool” I would use to try and get pitching.

    • TexasGusCC

      Chris, when the trade happened, ARod went on Mike Francessa’s show and said that Cano used to do the drills with him at third base before games and “had an absolute bazooka for an arm.” It was ARod’s opinion that third base was the better position for Cano going forward.

      • Brian Joura

        3B requires a type of hustle that Cano simply doesn’t have. If the Mets played him there, any slow-moving ball that got past the pitcher would be a hit. Also, just imagine how exhausting it would be for Cano to jog back and forth across the diamond on every lefty batter that they used the shift on.

        The Mets are getting a gift from the heavens with the DH seemingly on its way. Play Cano there and be done with it.

  • Remember1969

    Great article followed by a lot of great comments. This shows the diversity of thought in the fan base. Some additional thoughts:
    (1) Per Texas comment… I had seen that comment by ARod in the past and I was intrigued by it at the time, but unfortunately I think that ship has sailed, for a couple reasons. One, he is now 37 years old, not the prime time to be learning/perfecting a new position in the big leagues. Two, if he wanted to play third, he would have – he does not want to. He wants to hit some hitting targets as a second baseman.
    (2) It will be interesting to see the approach they take with Cano if BVW is not retained and Alderson is calling the shots. Cano does have the big contract and had a very good year in 2020, but if he doesn’t have his guy in the GM chair, who knows what direction that will take.
    (3) As far as McNeil, I believe he is the guy that can get the most back, for a couple reasons that have been stated already – team control and track record. I do agree with Chris F above that McNeil is not a third baseman. I am not sure he is a better defensive option than Cano at second.

  • James O'Brien

    I don’t get the argument that Brodie Van Wagenen has “gutted the farm system.” The season prior to the trade with Seattle, the season had been scuttled by not having an effective closer. To meet that need, Brodie went out and got the best reliever in baseball. Does anyone think that wouldn’t have cost something? Diaz’ first season made the trade look ridiculous, but he was excellent this year, as was Cano. I don’t like going big for a closer (The Mets could have drafted Mike Trout if they hadn’t signed Francisco Rodriguez, but I digress.) Aside from that trade, the highest-ranked players he traded weren’t going to be stars in NY. Most guys on the farm, even those in the top ten aren’t going to make it for long or will be bench players. You have to trade those guys for a chance to win. I’ve questioned a couple of guys he traded, but that’s true of any GM. What’s most significant is that he’s drafted incredibly well. Our farm system has a lot of guys who could become stars in the relatively near future. So trading ‘OK’ players and stocking with much better prospects doesn’t look like gutting the farm to me. Just sayin’…

    • Remember1969

      Perfect. Thank you! I have written and never posted a piece on this very topic I called the “Devil’s Advocate” with words about how BVW actually has not done too bad a job. There are a couple things that I could call him on, but overall there is a lot of things that have not had enough time to grade.
      (1) The Seattle trade is still really outstanding. Everybody assumes Kelenic will be a Hall of Famer and that 2019 was Diaz for real. Perhaps Diaz will be the Hall of Famer ? Note: I was not a fan of trading Kelenic at the time and still think that trading #1 picks before they rise through the minors is a bad idea. Grade: TBD
      (2) The Toronto trade was just bad luck. I was intrigued by Woods-Richardson and was disappointed he was included, but getting Stroman for 2019 and 2020 was a great move that didn’t work out very well because of Covid. Grade: TBD
      (3) The whole Wheeler handling. Not sure about this one, I certainly agree with BVW (at the time and really still do) that the Phillies paid more than I thought he was worth. Could/should they have traded him at the deadline and gotten more than a supplemental pick? Will Isiah Greene be a major league player? Grade: TBD
      (4) d’Arnaud. A bit odd to just DFA him in the middle of the season like that, but he hadn’t really shown much. Not too much issue with that one.
      (5) Marisnick. I like what he brings (brought) to the table, but I am not sure he needed to trade players to get a decent fielding backup outfielder.
      (6) Davis. Probably a plus, although this one could go south too if Davis is more the 2020 player than the 2019 one and one of the players sent to Houston blossoms a bit more.
      (7) Drafting: Definitely a plus. I believe he has to be given a lot of credit for snagging Allan. Overall solid for the top three or four picks in his two years.

      • Bob P

        I disagree with you on the Cano trade being TBD. Of course it’s possible that the trade works out better for the Mets if Diaz becomes a HOF player and Kelenic flops, but the reason this is a huge negative on BVWs part is that he gave up a top prospect and took on an albatross of a contract. I think Seattle probably had very little chance of moving Cano at all and that’s why they had to give up Diaz to do it. If they weren’t willing to take something lesser than Kelenic in the deal to rid themselves of Cano the Mets should have walked away. With Cano having a no trade clause Seattle’s options were limited. I truly believe they could have swung the same deal and given away less.

        I do agree with you on No. 7. Even though people will say you can’t evaluate a draft for several years, getting multiple first round talents in two straight drafts is a nice job. They probably won’t all pan out but that’s the risk of a draft. He should get credit for that now even if it doesn’t work out with all of those picks.

        • TexasGusCC

          +1 to Bob P.

          Nice job Bob, you nailed it.

        • Brian Joura

          Piggybacking on Bob’s response — You have to judge a trade two ways, the value the players ultimately produce along with the value at the time. The example I always use is that following the 2015 season, the Mets could have traded Matt Harvey for Rick Porcello. They would have been crucified for it and that 100% would have been the right call. Of course, Porcello went on to win the Cy Young Award that year and Harvey was never the same. But his trade value at the time was higher. A lot higher.

          It can’t be nothing more than one or the other. You have to judge a trade both ways. Even if Kelenic flops, it was still a bad trade because if they offered Kelenic & Dunn to every team in the league, they would have gotten a better return than what they did.

          • Remember1969

            If the trade had been straight-up Kelenic for Diaz a the end of Diaz 2018 season, would that have been the same bad trade? The Diaz of 57 saves, 1.96 ERA 41H in 73+ Innings?
            (I don’t know – or even know how I feel about – the answer to that question … I probably would not have been happy giving up the #1 pick, but the bullpen at that time needed big help. At the end of 2018 Diaz was the biggest help you could get. )

            • TexasGusCC

              That’s a great question 69. I would say yes because Craig Kimbrel was available as a free agent. Now, he has since flamed out some and wanted Ardolis Chapman money, but you had another option. Certainly, it would much harder to criticize the trade you mentioned.

            • Brian Joura

              Of course it wouldn’t be the same bad trade – you’re majorly changing the parameters of what happened. The original trade forced the move of McNeil who had a +4 DRS in 460.2 innings off of 2B and at the time – out of the lineup on a full-time basis. It also required on taking on a 36 year old with a drug suspension on his resume and one who was owed $100 million the next five years. It also meant taking away an upper level pitching prospect in Dunn. And it took away guys who would have been useful to the 2019 Mets in Bruce and Swarzak. You’re taking all of that away and asking if it would be the same?

              • Remember1969

                So the second half of that trade becomes Swarzak, Bruce, and Dunn for Cano. I would do that one in a heartbeat at the end of 2018. Cano in a half season in 2018 after his suspension hit .303 with 10 homers in 348 plate appearances. He has (had) never hit less than .271 in his career and not hit less than .282 in a decade. Bruce in 2018 hit .223 with 9 homers in 361 plate appearance while Swarzak was coming off a campaign with a 6.15 ERA in only 29 games. Dunn would be the wildcard in that trade. Overall, I’d do that trade everyday for a professional hitter who loves New York and is only on the hook for $21M a year for 5 years. Perhaps a bit of an overspend, but not a lot in my mind with the current salary structures in MLB. Bruce’s contract had him at $14M in 2019, so +$7M for Cano is all it cost.
                I do agree that the Jeff McNeil was affected, but at that point, he had 248 official plate appearances in the bigs. Was he for real or the next Mike Vail? 2020 hindsight tells us he is a fine hitter, but at that point in time and for all those reasons, bringing in Cano was not such a crazy idea.

                • Brian Joura

                  I think you’re overestimating the long-term success of 2B in their late 30s.

                  But even if you aren’t, you still have to factor in the opportunity cost of the $20 million per year to Cano. It certainly would have made it a lot easier to fit Wheeler on the club.

                  So, would you rather have Cano at 2B for $100 million over 5 years

                  or

                  McNeil at 2B, Dunn in the mix for 2019 and in the rotation for 2020, Swarzak and his 101 ERA+ in the bullpen in 2019 (Wilson & Lugo were the only relievers to throw at least 15 innings and have a higher ERA+, Swarzak had 53.1 IP), Bruce and his 26 HR in 2019 and Wheeler on the club for 2020 and beyond?

                  I’d opt for the latter and I don’t believe it’s particularly close.

                  • Remember1969

                    Good discussion . . . I actually prefer the way that BVW went with this. I had no faith in Bruce – it was a good riddance for him. You cite his 26 HR .. I cite his .216 batting average and .261 OBP, with only 59 ribbies or ~2 BI per HR. . . that is a drain on the lineup. Swarzak’s peripheral stats in 2019 are about the same as those that we fans complain when put out by our relievers. 27 BB and 52 K and an actual ERA over 4.5 is not a cornerstone of the bullpen. They needed to ditch the Bruce and Swarzak contracts – totalling $22.5M in 2019. I understand that was the end of it, but .. and Wheeler is another discussion. I tend to agree with the way BVW handled that. I know you hold a higher opinion of Zack than I do, but I still believe Phillies overpaid. I may prove to be wrong on that, but that is my feel at this point.
                    Thanks for the discussion! Two opinions at work.

    • Joe Vasile

      I mean, the idea of gutting the farm system is not always a bad thing (see Dave Dombrowski’s entire career), but that’s exactly what BVW has done in his time here. Kelenic, Dunn, Woods-Richardson, Kay, and Adolph were all top 15 ranked prospects when they were dealt. Sure you got Diaz, Cano and Stroman back, but the depth in the minor league system has taken a huge step backward.

      Of course not every prospect becomes a star or even an MLB regular, but that’s why depth is so important in a farm system. The more good players you have, the better chance you have of developing a good homegrown team. Under BVW, the Mets have far less talent in the minors than they did before.

      I will grant that at least for the time being, it looks like BVW has done a good job in the draft. But of course a lot of those guys are still far away, and the upper minors talent that is gone is more valuable than the lower minors talent that has come in.

      • Remember1969

        I can’t disagree with you on your points. Of all those that were traded, I would really like to have Kelenic and Woods Richardson back. The game has forever been about development of and moving guys to create the best roster possible. There are a lot of different ways to go about that, and certainly, a good balanced minor league system is paramount to long term success. A few trades in history will go down as ‘at the time, it seemed like a good idea’. I bet the White Sox aren’t thinking that James Shields was the best acquisition now. And the famous Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. The Cubs had a lot of years of regret there. The Mets have certainly had some doozies, but most of the bad ones I can think of did not involve the top levels of the farm. It wouldn’t be fun for us fans if it were an exact science and the outcomes were always predetermined.

  • MattyMets

    McNeil belongs at second. Nimmo belongs in left. Smith belongs at first. Alonso at DH. Making this happen will require some off-season maneuvering, but it’s worth it because it would improve our defense tremendously. More on this in my Friday post.

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