Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

With New York Mets stud Jeff McNeil nearing a return to the majors, playing time for Todd Frazier could become problematic. 

The New York Mets could have a tough decision to make when Jeff McNeil is activated from the injured list. They’ve received consistent production from almost everyone within their lineup since McNeil was placed on the IL.

Which could make things complicated when McNeil returns to the lineup. There’s no question the Mets will find a position for McNeil to play every day, but that means someone will have to lose their playing time and be moved to a bench role instead.

The Mets have gotten outstanding production from all three outfielders during McNeil’s absence, which means McNeil will likely have to be moved back to the infield. We all know that Amed Rosario and Pete Alonso are safe. Mets manager Mickey Callaway has stated that he wants to continue to give Joe Panik regular playing time at second base.

So, that leaves just third base available for McNeil, which means Todd Frazier will likely have to move to the bench. Frazier has been productive for the Mets this season. The 33-year-old has hit 13 doubles, 16 home runs, 50 RBI’s and slashed a line of .230/.303/.410/.713 through 104 games this season.

Frazier has seen his production significantly decline since the All-Star break to the point he’s become somewhat of a liability. In 37 games since the break, Frazier has produced a line of just .190/.243/.359/.603. While he has hit five home runs and driven in 16 RBI, he also nearly has almost as many strikeouts as he did during the first half of the season.

Frazier has struck out 44 times since the break, which has nearly already matched his first-half total of 46 strikeouts. Those increased strikeouts have raised Frazier’s strikeout rate by over 10%. During the first half, Frazier recorded an 18.6% strikeout rate, which has now risen to 28.9% during the second half of the season.

While Frazier has become a problem at the plate since the break, his defense has never faltered at any point this season. Frazier has recorded the sixth-most DRS(3), 9th-best UZR (0.1) and UZR/150 (0.1) among third basemen in the NL this season.

However, McNeil has shown to be capable of producing those types of numbers at third base. McNeil hasn’t spent a ton of time at third base in his career. But, his numbers recorded this season make a move to the hot corner intriguing for McNeil. Through six starts and 16 total games at third base this season, McNeil hasn’t committed an error and has also recorded two DRS, a 0.7 UZR and an 18.8 UZR/150.

McNeil’s limited numbers at third base this season show that he’s very capable of playing third base on a regular basis. The Mets would also receive much more production from the third position if McNeil was moved there.

The Mets have loved what Frazier has done for them during his two seasons with them. But, these are the types of sacrifices that have to be made when you’re contending for a playoff spot. Hopefully, Frazier will be able to fully understand that, especially since he’s already been to the postseason three different times in his career.

The Mets would probably keep Frazier at third base if he had been able to continue his first-half performance where he hit eleven home runs, 34 RBI and slashed a line of .256/.340/.443/.783. But the Mets just can’t afford to have Frazier to continue to be a liability at the plate.

So, that means once McNeil returns Frazier will likely play a diminished role off the bench. A bench role for Frazier is likely the exact type of role he would have been playing anyways if the Mets had decided to trade him. If the Mets make the playoffs, Frazier will likely be utilized off the bench during just the pitcher’s spot in the lineup.

Frazier is also a free agent after this season and he’ll be turning 34-years-old this February. The Mets could choose to bring him back on a one-year contract. But Frazier may decide to look elsewhere in hopes to pursue another multi-year deal.

The Mets signed Frazier back in 2018 hoping that he would be able to become their everyday third baseman for the next few seasons. They probably had hoped that he would perform better than a 1.5 fWAR player last season and a 0.8 fWAR player this season. But Frazier has provided the Mets with a reliable defensive player at third base over the last two seasons.

However, his time as that player seems to be coming to an end. McNeil is 27-years-old and is also under team control for several more seasons after this one. Once McNeil returns from the IL, it’ll be time for Frazier to take a step back and have McNeil take over as the everyday third baseman.