Mets to extend Jeff McNeil

The Mets and second baseman Jeff McNeil agree to four-year, $50 million contract extension, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports. The contract contains a club option for a fifth season, which could see the extension amount to $63.75 million over five years. The deal buys out the last two seasons of officiating for client Paragon Sports International, and the Mets will take control of what would have been McNeil’s first three free agent seasons.

Unable to agree on a one-year salary for the upcoming season, McNeil and the Mets appeared to be heading for an arbitration hearing. He had filed for $7.75 million on the heels of his first National League batting title in 2021, as the Mets responded with a figure of $6.25 million. Those sums can now be thrown away, as McNeil’s final two years of arbitration are locked. If we count 2023 in the middle of $7 million of those two sums and McNeil could have made between $12 and $13 million in what would have been his final officiating season, the Mets are guaranteeing somewhere in the vicinity of $30. million more to lock in two more free-agent seasons and secure a reasonably priced club option on a third free-agent year.

McNeil, 31 in April, is now locked down for at least his campaign at 34 and possibly his season at 35. He is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, having hit a .326/.382/.454 batting line with nine home runs, 39 doubles, one triple and four stolen bases in 589 plate appearances. Unsurprisingly, this season earned him a second career All-Star nomination and earned him Silver Slugger honors in the National League — his first such award.

McNeil was one of the Majors’ toughest strikeouts, stoking a low of 10.4% in his plate appearances. It never did much and didn’t change that in 2022 (6.8%), but it’s hard to argue with the results. McNeil has benefited to some degree from a career average of .353 on balls in play, but even though that mark is slipping back to the .324 mark he carried in the 2022 season, his batting skills and his penchant for finding gaps will allow him to remain the well-over-par hitter he was for the majority of the 2018-21 seasons.

The 2022 season was also arguably the best defensive season of McNeil’s career. Each of Defensive Runs Saved (3), Ultimate Zone Rating (3.5) and Outs Above Average (7) rated him as a good gauntlet at second base. He also spent some time in the outside corners (278 innings) and drew average or better reviews for his work there, and he even contributed a single inning at third base for good measure. Second base will continue to be his primary home on the field, but McNeil has shown in the past to be a capable third baseman, left fielder, or right fielder, which only adds to his value. for the Mets.

Of course, since we’re talking about the Mets, the financial ramifications of the contract extend far beyond the $50 million McNeil himself will receive. The Mets have already passed the fourth and final luxury tax barrier this season, which means that every dollar they spend is taxed at 90%. Had McNeil won his arbitration hearing and been awarded a $7.75 million salary, that would have meant the Mets would have paid $6.975 million in taxes on his salary, bringing the total expense to $14.725 million. dollars. Instead, the Mets will now be taxed based on the average annual value of McNeil’s contract of $12.5 million. That means they’ll pay $11.25 million in taxes on McNeil’s contract this year, an increase of $4.275 million over what they would have paid him had he won a court hearing. arbitration.

There is a tax advantage to extending McNeil – even beyond the obvious value of keeping an excellent player at a reasonable rate for the next half-decade. If McNeil had won an arbitration hearing next month — and after winning a batting title he would have had a strong case — he would have landed that $7.75 million payday. With another strong season, he most likely would have enjoyed a raise beyond the $12.5 million AAV of his current deal in his final season of arb, when the Mets are likely to be in again. the top of the Luxury Penalty Rankings (overages being taxed at a 110% clip). The extension could then save the Mets around $1 million on their luxury ledger for the 2024 season — assuming McNeil has a healthy and productive 2023 campaign.

Those details aside, the main benefit for the Mets is simply retaining a two-time All-Star and paying an annual rate that, with good health for McNeil, will likely be less than his true open market value at the when the 2024-25 offseason unfolds. There’s definitely a risk for the Mets, as one only has to look at McNeil’s pedestrian .251/.319/.360 batting line from 2021 to see that his lack of power (outside of the juicy-ball campaign in 2019) leaves it with a fairly lukewarm soil. The Mets were already in control of McNeil’s 31- and 32-year-old seasons, and there’s always the possibility that preemptively buying a 33-35-year-old player’s seasons might seem unfortunate in hindsight.

That said, the aforementioned 21st campaign is the only below-average offensive season of McNeil’s career, and his contact skills and multi-position defensive skills make him still a useful player even in his mid-30s. It’s unrealistic to expect him to replicate his 2022 production in the coming years, but there’s little reason to think this deal will turn into some form of egregious misstep either.

McNeil joins now Max Scherzer ($43 million), Justin Verlander ($43 million), Francois Lindor ($34.1 million), Brandon Nimmo ($20.5 million), Starling Marte ($20.75 million), Edwin Diaz ($21.25 million), Kodai Senga ($15 million), Jose Quintana ($13 million) and Thomas Nest ($2.1 million) as players are locked in on their 2024 salaries.

Assuming an even split in McNeil’s salary, that would work out to just over $225 million guaranteed to 10 players, with four other club options (Marc Canha, edward escobar, Brooks Raley, The reputation), two player options (Omar Narvaez, Adam Piccolo) and a nine-man officiating class headlining Pete Alonso all potentially increasing the bill.

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