With several impact players hitting free agency, we knew the Mets would be busy spending money to reload for another postseason run in 2023. But once the heavy lifting was done for the roster, many wanted Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso to get extensions.
McNeil got his deal. Now we can hope the attention turns to Alonso so he can be locked up for the long haul prior to Opening Day.
When it comes to the Mets’ second baseman/resident Hit Machine, the extension both parties agreed on looks extremely team-friendly. Like Atlanta Braves-esque team-friendly. Alright, well, not as bad as Ozzie Albies’ deal (seven years for $35 million). But still, it’s a huge discount for New York considering McNeil’s production since debuting in 2018.
The Flying Squirrel is set to earn $50 million over the next four years. This deal includes a club option for the fifth year, which could bring the total value to $63.75 million. So, New York bought out McNeil’s final two arbitration years and the first two (or three) of his free-agent years.
The left-handed hitter made his MLB debut on July 24, 2018. Since that moment, McNeil has produced 16.1 fWAR. That’s already among the most in franchise history, and since the start of 2018, that number is tied with Tim Anderson for the 31st highest in baseball. If we specifically look at second basemen, it’s the third highest. He only trails Jose Altuve (22.0) and Marcus Semien (20.1).
So, the Mets just locked up one of the game’s best second basemen for the next four at an average annual value of $12.5 million.
When laying it out this way, it sounds like an extreme bargain. But how much of a bargain, exactly? This is where FanGraphs’ Dollars metric is helpful, as it puts a specific value on a player’s yearly production. It values 1.0 fWAR at about $8 million. Let’s take a look at each of McNeil’s full seasons so far (so, no 2020 here).
In 2018, he made $202,170 (the pro-rated league minimum). His performance was worth $23 million thanks to his 2.9 fWAR. His salary went up to $567,714 in 2019, but so did his overall value. McNeil’s 4.8 fWAR was worth $38.5 million.
McNeil made $642,251 in 2021, which was a down year for him. But still, his performance came in at 1.3 fWAR, valued at $10.8 million. And then, of course, came his career year in 2022, which included 5.9 fWAR while making just $3 million. That performance was worth $46.9 million.
The 30-year-old’s 2023 projections also make it look like he’ll be extremely valuable again for the Mets. ZiPS has him at 3.3 fWAR, while Steamer has him at 3.6. Even with a significant pay raise to $12.5 million, New York is getting a significant deal. Just not as much as before.
Could McNeil have gotten more on the open market? It’s certainly possible, but he wasn’t due to hit free agency for another two seasons, which would’ve been ahead of his age-33 campaign. What he does well on the field will likely age nicely, making him a productive player and able to sustain above-average performances into his mid-30s.
But for someone reaching free agency that late in his career, there’s some risk. Plus, two years is a long time from now. McNeil gets the security he likely desired and the Mets get cost certainty for the next few years while retaining a popular homegrown player. That sounds like a win for everyone (but most definitely more so for the Mets).
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.