Mets, Cal two-sport star McIlwain agree to deal

NY also adds University of South Alabama RHP Nightengale

June 15th, 2020

NEW YORK -- The Mets agreed to terms with their first two non-drafted free agents on Monday: University of California two-sport star Brandon McIlwain and University of South Alabama right-hander Drake Nightengale. The team has not announced the deals because they are still unofficial.

McIlwain, 22, was originally selected by the Mariners as a Draft-eligible sophomore in the 26th round last year, but he elected to return to Cal as a redshirt junior after missing much of the previous season due to injury. COVID-19 concerns limited him to just 16 games, in which he hit .200 with one home run and four stolen bases.

An athletic outfielder, McIlwain also started football games at quarterback for both Cal and the University of South Carolina, which he attended as a freshman. As a sophomore at Cal, McIlwain came within two rushing touchdowns of the school’s record for a QB. He is a Pennsylvania native.

McIlwain adds to the Mets’ focus on infusing their system with athletic outfielders. The team used its top Draft selection (No. 19 overall) on Pete Crow-Armstrong, then took high school center fielder Isaiah Greene (No. 69 overall) with a comp pick.

Nightengale, a 6-foot-0 right-hander who announced his deal on Twitter, ranked fourth in the Sun Belt Conference with a 3.52 ERA and 91 strikeouts as a junior. His college bio lists Jacob deGrom as his favorite player; now, Nightengale could soon have a chance to meet him.

Teams were first eligible to sign undrafted free agents on Sunday. The player pool is far larger than normal because the Draft was only five rounds long, leaving many prospects who otherwise would have been drafted in Rounds 6 through 40 available as free agents. The cap on any individual signing is $20,000.