Mets, McNeil agree on $50 million extension

January 31st, 2023

NEW YORK -- The most prolific hitter in the Majors last season, a homegrown talent featuring defensive versatility and freakish bat-to-ball skills, is set to remain in Flushing for the foreseeable future.

The Mets and have agreed to a four-year contract extension that will keep the 2022 NL batting champion in-house through at least 2026, the team announced on Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed, but multiple sources with knowledge of the contract told that the contract is worth $50 million. The deal also includes a 2027 club option that could increase the total value to $63.75 million.

“We are thrilled for Jeff and his family,” Mets owner Steve Cohen said in a statement. “It feels like he hasn’t stopped hitting since he lined a single in his first at-bat at Citi Field five years ago. We are especially proud that Jeff worked his way through our organization over the last decade to become a homegrown star and that he has chosen to extend our partnership.”

It is a financial windfall for McNeil following one of the finest seasons of his career, which saw him hit .326 to win the franchise’s first batting title in 11 years. The new contract buys out McNeil’s final two arbitration seasons while guaranteeing the Mets cost certainty for one of their marquee offensive pieces.

McNeil, who will turn 31 in April, is a career .307 hitter over five seasons with the club. He is slated to be the Mets’ starting second baseman this season and has announced his intention to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

Upon embarking upon one of the most lavish spending sprees in Major League history in December, the Mets left themselves with few remaining agenda items outside potential contract extensions for two of their core hitters, McNeil and . (Multiple sources declined comment when asked if McNeil’s deal could precede a similar one for Alonso.) To complete a contract with McNeil, the team guaranteed him more money than he would have received over the next two seasons through the arbitration process, while removing the potential stress that McNeil might have faced entering free agency for the first time at age 32.

In that regard the deal makes sense for both sides. McNeil sacrificed some potential future earnings for a significant raise now, while the Mets locked up the reigning MLB batting champion for an average of $12.5 million per season -- a relative pittance, considering how well established McNeil is as an elite hitter.

“Jeff was a big part of our success last season,” Mets GM Billy Eppler said in a statement. “He has truly elite bat-to-ball skill, which has been the foundation of his strong offensive performance throughout his career. On the other side of the ball, his ability to play infield and outfield at a high level adds valuable flexibility to our roster. We’re thrilled to have him here for years to come.”

A 12th-round Draft pick who golfed competitively in high school before shifting his focus to baseball in college, McNeil never ranked among the Mets’ top prospects, as he battled injuries throughout his Minor League career. He did not break into the Majors until he was 26 years old, but he quickly established himself as a premier hitter, batting .329 as a rookie -- his first of three consecutive seasons above .300. He endured a down year in 2021 but bounced back to secure the batting title on the penultimate day of the 2022 season, largely by rediscovering the mechanics that have always made him a throwback.

Best known for a left-handed swing that allows him to spray all corners of the field with ground balls and line drives, McNeil has also given the Mets significant value as a strong defender who can play second base, third base and both corner outfield positions. Primarily manning second and left last season, McNeil produced positive Outs Above Average totals at both positions.

The Mets now have two of their homegrown core position players locked up to long-term contracts; the team signed to an eight-year free-agent contract earlier this offseason. Two other contemporaries, Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith, have moved on, leaving Alonso as the only remaining homegrown Mets hitter unsigned past 2024.

That could still change, though Alonso’s age (28) and career arc (40 home runs last season) suggest he’ll require a much larger contract than McNeil to forego free agency. Unlike his friend and teammate, who was set to go to an arbitration hearing with the Mets before agreeing to a new deal, Alonso has already agreed to a $14.5 million contract for 2023. The Mets could still rip up that contract to complete an extension, or they could wait to see what develops over the next two years.