Mets’ Jeff McNeil pushes teammate to keep costly promise after winning batting title
It was a good Tuesday for New York Mets utility player Jeff McNeil.
McNeil’s four-year extension from the $50 million team has been made official, and it includes an option for a fifth year that could bring the grand total to $63.75 million.
But, at his press conference on Tuesday to announce the extension, McNeil is expecting one more thing – but now from the front office.
Mets All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor promised McNeil he would buy him a car if he won the National League batting title. He did just that, averaging 0.326 in the 2022 season, but he still hasn’t received his award.
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McNeil said he recently sent Lindor some cars that caught his eye.
“He said they were nice cars,” McNeil said, via The Post. “They were a mark of a very beautiful [car].”
McNeil and Lindor have other things on their minds at the moment, with the Mets opening spring training in two weeks. As always, it will be the pitchers first, then position the players before the team’s first practice.
The 30-year-old McNeil is an important part of the Mets roster that won 101 games last season, despite falling to the San Diego Padres in the NL wildcard round.
This extension, however, also makes McNeil key going forward.
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“Taking care of my family was huge,” McNeil said, as he gives up his last two years of refereeing with this extension. “Coming in at 26 and being a free agent at 33, you never know what’s going to happen. I’m also a high-strung person, so I think that allows me to go out there and play in baseball every day. I don’t need to worry.”
Guaranteed money has always been attractive to players, especially in MLB when becoming a free agent initially requires years of adjudication. Players like Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves, Luis Severino of the New York Yankees and, more recently, Yandy Diaz of the Tampa Bay Rays are taking early extensions before entering the market to secure their millions.
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McNeil noted that those discussions with the Mets brass got serious in January after the deadline for players eligible for arbitration to come to an agreement with their teams. McNeil was hoping to get a raise from $3 million to $7.75 million for the upcoming season. The Mets countered with $6.25 million at the time, forcing arbitration.
They avoid that now with the new expansion.
With McNeil locked down for at least the next four years, the Mets have a strong core that includes Brandon Nimmo, who re-signed this offseason after becoming a free agent, and Lindor. Pete Alonso, who still has a year of officiating after this season, is likely the next player on the Mets’ slate for extension talks.
As McNeil said, he made his league debut at age 26 in 2018, and it was a stellar performance with a .329/.381/.471 slash in 63 games. Those efforts brought him with the Mets for the entire 2019 season, which became his first All-Star year with a .318/.384/.531 slash with 23 homers, 38 doubles and 75 RBIs in 133 games. .
In five seasons, McNeil has only hit under .311 once, making him one of the best contact hitters in the game.
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Despite being “on the hump” at 30, the Mets see no reason why McNeil’s bat can’t continue to pump out hits every season, which has led to his talents being locked short and long term.