Jeff McNeil won the National League Batting Title last season after a down year in 2021 and has committed to a four-year, $50million extension.
He helped the New York Mets reach the postseason for the first time since 2016 and, despite the loss to the San Diego Padres in the National League Wild Card Series, McNeil wants more this season.
|What||MLB 2023 Season|
|Where||Various venues across the USA|
|When||30th March - 1st October|
|How to watch||BT Sport|
|Odds||To win World Series: New York Mets 7/1, LA Dodgers, 6/1, Houston Astros 6/1, New York Yankees 8/1, Atlanta Braves 9/1, Toronto Blue Jays 9/1|
McNeil was a 12th-round Draft pick who played golf competitively in high school before shifting his focus to baseball while at college.
McNeil was never one of the best prospects as he battled injuries during his minor league career.
When he was 26-years-old he managed to break into the Major Leagues, but he quickly established himself as a premier hitter, with a .329 average as a rookie, which was the first of three consecutive years hitting above .300.
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McNeil had a down year in 2021, but he reversed that trend immediately by winning the batting title on the penultimate day of the regular 2022 season.
Speaking to ESPN, McNeil said: “You never know what is going to happen. You’re one injury away from being out of this game. And that’s frustrating, that’s scary sometimes.
“But this deal is able to take that off my mind, and I’m just going to go out there and play hard and be the baseball player I know I am.”
The two-time All-Star is best known for his left-handed swing that allows him to hit to 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.
The Mets have now locked down two of their homegrown talents in Brandon Nimmo, who signed an eight-year contract worth $162million earlier in the offseason.
While Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith have moved on, the Mets still have Pete Alonso under control until after 2024 when he hits free agency. It’s likely the Mets will offer Alonso a deal before then, although the contract will be much like Nimmo's.
Alonso has agreed to a $14.5million deal for the 2023 season avoiding arbitration and they could rip up that contract and extend Alonso now, or wait to see what transpires over the course of the next two seasons.
Steve Cohen, the Mets owner, has shown that money is no object to extending current contracts or even dipping into the free agency market as shown with Justin Verlander and giving Francisco Lindor a huge deal. This is the new New York Mets and they are built to compete now.
Last season showed that the Mets were a very good team, winning 101 games, the second-most in their history.
They again led the National League East Division but, unlike 2021, they held onto top position until the end, when the Atlanta Braves swept the Mets in a vital series at the end to grab their fifth consecutive Divisional title.
In 2022, The Mets reached the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and, while they lost at the Wild Card stage again, progress had been made and they appear to be ready to compete.
While the Mets have been Divisional title contenders for the past two seasons (13/10 to Win the NL East Division in 2023), the last time they actually won the NL East Divisional title was in 2015, when they also reached the World Series, only to lose to the Kansas City Royals.
The NL East is a tough Division with three outright contenders for the championship. The reigning holders are the Atlanta Braves (7/5 to Win the NL East Division) and their dominance has been apparent in their five wins on the bounce.
The Philadelphia Phillies (3/1 To Win the NL East Division) surprised everyone in 2022 by grabbing the other Wild Card position and going all the way to reach the World Series (only to lose to the Houston Astros), and they should be considered again so the Mets will find it tough this season.
Having signed up McNeil, the Mets need to look at handing Alonso a new deal. He is a homegrown player, has improved at first base and his hitting is outstanding. The Mets have a fine core group and, while they baulked at moving for Carlos Correa in the end, don’t rule them out for pushing for the World Series.