The Seattle Mariners and New York Mets both find themselves in the window of contention for the 2022 season. Despite running shockingly different payrolls and disparate methods of roster construction, both teams have made it abundantly clear they intend to compete immediately. With the Mets having been the most aggressive team in all of MLB this offseason, they have no aversion to getting deals done. In the recent weeks, reports have surfaced indicating that they are inclined to move on from former lineup stalwart Jeff McNeil.
Could the Mariners be a match? I posit that an acquisition of Jeff McNeil, a utility player, would not only aid the Mariners for this year, but for the foreseeable future. He won’t come for free, and gauging his value is difficult, however I believe I have come up with a mock trade that works for both sides and could help end the playoff drought in Seattle. Here’s the trade…
This may be a tough deal to swallow for Mariners fans, and I won’t argue that this wouldn’t be a slam dunk trade right off the bat. However, the Mets need assets they can use immediately and Chris Flexen is just that. Yes, the Mariners would need to sign an extra starting starting pitcher to fill in the rotation. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. They have more than the necessary funds to acquire multiple starting pitchers to supplement their rotation, even after the Robbie Ray acquisition.
I love watching Chris Flexen pitch as much as anyone, yet I feel as though he may be getting overvalued by Mariners fans. The 2021 version of Chris Flexen is about as good as one could possibly hope for. Finishing with a 3.61 ERA and 3.89 FIP is fantastic, but look closer at his expected numbers and some red flags begin to appear. Sporting an xERA of 4.30 and xFIP of 4.56, Flexen is drastically outperforming is peripherals. While still a valuable asset, he is far from a rock solid bet to man the middle of the rotation.
At his core, Flexen is a contact manager who relies on the elite infield defense the Mariners put out on the field. It’s not inherently a bad thing, but he has limited upside. Flexen is a #4 starter if he has little or moderate regression, and a number five if regression hits a little harder. That’s a valuable part of any contending team, however the Mariners need to be looking into avenues where they can add impact bats, and McNeil’s upside is just that.
Jeff McNeil is great at baseball. He wasn’t all that inspiring in 2021, and I understand those that may be averse to trading for someone who posted subpar numbers last year. However, I would like to show you just how good Jeff McNeil is and why I think it’s more than likely his 2021 season was a fluke.
- Jeff McNeil (2021) – .251/.319/.360/.679, 93 wRC+, 1.4 WAR
This slash line is unequivocally uninspiring. Now, even with this very mediocre year in the fold, lets look at his career slash line.
- Jeff McNeil (2018-2021) – .299/.364/.459/.824, 126 wRC+, 11.2 WAR
McNeil, after a poor 2021 season with subpar hitting metrics, still has a career wRC+ of 126. Coming into 2021, his career wRC+ was north of 130. Here is a list of the five best hitters for the Mariners in 2021 by wRC+
- Ty France – 129
- Mitch Haniger – 120
- Jake Fraley – 109
- Kyle Lewis – 107
- J.P. Crawford – 103
Even if McNeil isn’t the player he’s been for 3 of the 4 seasons he’s played and he ends up being a second baseman with a wRC+ of 115, he’d still be one of the better second basemen in the league. If you can obtain a bat of his caliber with the positional versatility he provides, I would not hesitate to make a competitive offer for him. His primary positions (2B, LF, and 3B) are all positions of need, and allowing him to play wherever is immensely valuable.
Sacrificing the next 5 years of Flexen is a tough pill to swallow to bet on a rebound candidate, but fear not: this deal does not come without an insurance plan.
David Peterson could very well turn into a more successful pitcher than Chris Flexen. A former first round draft pick out of Oregon, Peterson has the tools to be a successful pitcher at the back end of the rotation. Sitting in the low 90’s and topping out at 95, Peterson has some “crafty lefty” traits that the M’s have shown an ability to develop in their starters.
Coming in with four years of control, Peterson would be a backup plan that could fill in for Flexen’s role should they be unable to obtain a superior option for the present season. If he proves himself as a legit rotation piece, Seattle has a net zero loss and any of the value McNeil provides is a surplus.
Realistically speaking, I believe the Mets and their seemingly endless pockets will try and package McNeil with a troupe of prospects to obtain a more expensive, flashier rotation piece than Chris Flexen. However, Flexen provides a large amount of surplus value for the contract he has, and with another 5 years of control, the Mets would not have to worry about a rotation spot for the next half decade. Should they inquire about his services, I believe the Mariners should jump at the opportunity and pursue avenues similar to this framework.