The Mets reportedly have nixed several calls from teams interested in Jeff McNeil. At first glance, any fan can see why. But you if you drill deeper…
The Mets have an All-Star second baseman in Jeff McNeil, who is only 27 and under team control until 2025. He is a hit machine who owns a .321 lifetime batting average as a big leaguer. Why would the Mets ever consider trading McNeil?
It’s funny because I’ve asked myself the same question many times before, only to come back with the answer, Have the Mets Gone Mad?
Seldom is anything black or white, however, and so it is with Jeff McNeil that we descend into the gray matter that makes baseball such an exciting sport to follow.
Watching an SNY telecast, for instance, the 23 home runs, 162 base hits, and 75 RBI will flash before our eyes in a corner box every time McNeil steps into the batter’s box.
And Keith Hernandez might even exalt the presence of McNeil in the Mets lineup as he lines another base hit over the second baseman’s head.
When The Mets Look Deeper
But the trouble is the Mets, like every team in baseball nowadays, employ a fact-finding team. They call it their Analytics Department, but it’s the bane or boom of every player who dons a Mets uniform.
The “other side” of Jeff McNeil is easily uncovered and laid bare by the analytics gurus.
Number one, Jeff McNeil, does not make what is called productive outs. In fact, he’s last on the Mets regulars with the fewest on the team.
The productive out can come in many colors, but it is a necessary ingredient that forms a team’s ability to engage in situational hitting.
A productive out can be something as simple as hitting a ground ball to the weak side with one out and a runner on second. Or, a sacrifice fly driving in a run, a bunt moving a runner to the next base, or a smash to third the field can’t possibly handle that goes for an error but keeps the inning alive.
Jeff McNeil hits only .254 with two outs and runners in scoring position. When the Mets are ahead, he hits eleven home runs driving in 36. But with the Mets behind, McNeil registers only five home runs and 23 RBI.
As The Mets Look At The Gray
This is not to suggest the Mets need to trade Jeff McNeil. It is only to indicate that all that glitters may not be gold. And if the opportunity arises for the Mets to gain an advantage by trading McNeil, Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets can be excused for doing so.
Assuming Jeff McNeil stays with the Mets and is not traded, he has two years to improve in these all-important, though, intangible categories.
Otherwise, McNeil can be assured the Mets will walk into the hearing before a referee in his first year of arbitration in 2022 with a portfolio filled with these disarming stats to combat the money on the table.
Hoping It Doesn’t Happen But…
This is not to advocate the Mets actively engage in trading Jeff McNeil.
Instead, it is to acknowledge there are weaknesses in his game that extend beyond the fireball who takes the field every day, no matter where he is assigned to play.
And that if someday the Mets do indeed trade McNeil when they take the platform announcing the trade, they will have justifiable stats for doing so.
In most cases, the good always outweighs the bad. But in this age of analytics and providers of obscure stats like Baseball-Reference, that is not such an easy judgment to make.
The only thing that becomes clear is Jeff McNeil is not yet a complete major league ballplayer. Here’s hoping that changes beginning in 2020 for the Mets.