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Jeff McNeil’s deal with Mets establishes framework for Luis Arraez extension

Would the Marlins be bold enough to extend Arraez before he plays a single game for them?

Luis Arraez #2 of the Minnesota Twins looks on while batting during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on October 1, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Twins 3-2. Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Big Miami Marlins news in more ways than one: Jeff McNeil and the New York Mets agreed to a contract extension on Friday that could keep him in the National League East through his age-35 season.

McNeil slashed .389/.460/.537 in 16 games against Marlins pitching last season en route to winning the NL batting title. Although 2022 was his best all-around campaign, he’s been extremely valuable to the Mets for a half-decade with his contact hitting and defensive versatility. Dating back to his 2018 debut, McNeil has accumulated the third-most FanGraphs wins above replacement among Mets players (16.1 fWAR), trailing only Jacob deGrom and Brandon Nimmo.

The timing of this deal is not random. Beginning on Monday, arbitration hearings begin for MLB players who didn’t settle with their clubs on 2023 salaries. McNeil was one of the players in that predicament.

So is new Marlin Luis Arraez. Prior to being traded, he exchanged salary figures with the Minnesota Twins entering his second year of arbitration eligibility. They couldn’t bridge a $1.1 million gap ($5.0M vs. $6.1M).

When I spoke with Kim Ng shortly after the Arraez acquisition, she said that she would like to “get to know the player better” before pursuing a long-term deal with him. There isn’t an urgency to lock up Arraez now—he is three seasons away from free agency. However, it’s typically more efficient from the club’s perspective to extend players as early as possible. In this particular situation, reaching a multi-year agreement behind closed doors would obviously foster a healthier relationship between these parties than arguing against one another at an arb hearing.

McNeil and Arraez have a lot in common. They are use-the-whole-field hitting machines who compile more than enough singles to compensate for what they lack in power and agility. They are primarily second basemen, but can provide serviceable defense at other positions to accommodate their teammates.

Since 2019 (Arraez’s rookie season), McNeil holds the slight edge in most counting and rate stats. Arraez is 10 points ahead of him in batting average and has earned a more “clutch” reputation via his production in high-leverage situations. Most projection systems anticipate them both to generate three-plus WAR in 2023.

Jeff McNeil vs. Luis Arraez MLB stats comparison, 2019-2022
Jeff McNeil vs. Luis Arraez MLB stats comparison, 2019-2022

All things considered, McNeil is the better player. The key for Arraez is youth—he was born five years (and one day) after the New York star and he’s due to be among the youngest players available in his free agent class if he doesn’t sign away his freedom beforehand. His contract should be longer than McNeil’s to account for that.

As discussed with Ted Schwerzler of Twins Daily, there are justifiable concerns about how Arraez will hold up physically considering his history of leg injuries. I believe five guaranteed years (2023-2027) is a reasonable compromise, with the sixth year being a vesting option triggered by reaching 502 plate appearances (the threshold to qualify for the batting title).

Possible Luis Arraez Extension: five years, $58 million plus sixth-year vesting option.

  • 2023—$4.5 million
  • 2024—$8 million
  • 2025—$11.5 million
  • 2026—$17 million
  • 2027—$17 million
  • 2028—$17 million vesting option (triggered by 502 PA in 2027)

The vesting option would take Arraez through age 31. The backloaded structure of the deal gives the Marlins flexibility to make sorely needed short-term bullpen upgrades.


Is a five-year, $58 million contract extension fair for Luis Arraez?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    (113 votes)
  • 16%
    No, too much
    (26 votes)
  • 9%
    No, not enough
    (15 votes)
154 votes total Vote Now