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Mets contract extension ‘a huge relief’ for ‘uptight’ Jeff McNeil

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Jeff McNeil batting title Mets
Jeff McNeil (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Jeff McNeil considers himself to be a bit “uptight,” which could be seen as one of the key reasons why he’s such a meticulous student of the game and one of the best natural hitters in Major League Baseball.

It’s also why the 30-year-old second baseman wanted to get a contract extension to remain with the New York Mets as soon as possible.

“Taking care of my family was huge,” McNeil said on Tuesday. “Getting called up at 26 and going to be a free agent at 33, you never know what is going to happen — and I’m a pretty uptight person as well. It kind of allows me to just go out there and play baseball every single day and not have to worry.”

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The lefty nicknamed “Squirrel” is set through at least the 2026 season, agreeing to a four-year, $50 million extension last week with a club option for 2027 — a deal that’s able to put his mind at ease after battling injuries throughout the minors, getting his first shot at the big leagues at 26, and finally securing some stability. 

“It’s a huge relief to me,” McNeil said. “It kind of plays into being 26 in Double-A and wondering if you’re ever going to get paid… It’s tough, it’s frustrating sometimes, especially with the years I’ve had. I’ve been playing some really good baseball.

“Just to be able to get those years of free agency taken care of, it’s a huge relief to me. I can go out there every single day and play the good baseball I know I’m capable of and know my family is taken care of at the same time.”

Jeff McNeil Mets
Jeff McNeil (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Over five seasons (just three full campaigns), McNeil is already near the very top of the organization’s all-time lits of offensive talents. His .307 career batting average ranks second in franchise history (min. 1,000 plate appearances) behind only John Olerud (.315). 

Among all active players in Major League Baseball (min. 2,000 plate appearances), McNeil’s average ranks a single point behind future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera at .308. 

For other ballplayers, such a stretch might have coaxed them to wait out the entire life of their contract, build their resume more, and hit the open market to maximize the top dollar being offered. 

McNeil’s “uptight” ways wouldn’t let that be an option, though.

“It’s on every players’ mind,” he said about looming free agency. “You never know what’s going to happen. You’re one injury away from being out of this game. It’s frustrating at times and scary. This deal is able to take that off my mind.”

After McNeil and the Mets were unable to strike a deal before MLB’s arbitration deadline in mid-January, extension negotiations began shortly thereafter and resulted in an agreement within roughly one week. 

“It starts with ownership. They want to put a winner on the field,” McNeil said. “It’s been pretty amazing to see what that’s looked like the last few years. Free agency over the last few years, the players they’ve invested in. I wanted to be a part of that.”

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For more on the Mets and Jeff McNeil, visit AMNY.com