Trading Block: Jeff McNeil and the Rays

We all know that every player is tradable for the right price, however this is a potential trade that I hope doesn’t come into fruition. Joel Sherman reported on Thursday morning that the Tampa Bay Rays were “focused” on New York Mets super-utility man Jeff McNeil in trade talks prior to the 2019 season.

Obviously, talks fell through as McNeil had his first full season with the Mets and continued to open eyes, not just with his ability to play all over the diamond, but also as a pure hitter who found his power surge. “The Flying Squirrel” put up a season in which he produced a WAR of 5.0 after batting .318/.384/.531/.916 while hitting 38 doubles, 1 triple, 23 home runs and driving in 75 RBI’s in 510 at-bats.

In Sherman’s article, he proposes a potential trade that would land the Mets a true centerfielder in Kevin Kiermaier as well as the young and controllable pitcher Yonny Charinos.

“In three-way trade talks with the Marlins last year that would have redirected J.T. Realmuto to the Mets, the Rays were focused on McNeil, the kind of low-cost Swiss Army Knife who can hit that Tampa Bay craves. Kiermaier is a terrific defender and all-out player with a bit of pop. He turns 30 in April, has been injury prone and is still due three years at $36 million. So to get McNeil, the Rays have to give up more. They are swimming in just the kind of young arms the Mets could use. How about Yonny Chirinos?

Kevin Kiermaier still may be a “terrific defender”, in which he is. He may still have a “bit of pop” in that bat, I don’t know. However, this is a deal I would stay away from at this point in his career. During the 2019 campaign, Kiermaier hit .228/.278/.398/.676 with 20 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs and 55 RBI’s while also stealing 19 bases in 447 at-bats.

Baseball-Reference is projecting that Kiermaier will have a better 2020 season but not by much. Baseball-Reference is projecting that the centerfielder will hit .240/.300/.415/.714 with 19 doubles, six triples, and 15 home runs (I assume these projections take into account the line-up built around him).

However, they project McNeil to slash .306/.372/.501/.873 with 29 doubles, three triples, alongside 18 home runs and 62 runs batted in.

Yonny Charinos spent his second season in the bigs pitching to a 3.85 ERA and a 9-5 win/loss record in 26 games, 18 of which were starts. The 25 year old right hander also struck out 114 batters in 133.1 innings pitched while giving up 112 hits and 28 base on balls, leaving him with a nice WHIP of 1.05 however his FIP at 4.44 on the year. If a deal were to be struck, Charinos would certainly be the favorite to inherit the fifth spot in the rotation.

While this potential trade would bring in a definite defensive upgrade in centerfield over both Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo, it may also squeeze Nimmo out of the picture as well. At the very least, his playing time will take a big hit which in return may also lower his long term value on the trade market.

So while the New York Mets might be entertaining some trade ideas and bouncing the ball off of the wall, this is a proposition I’d easily decline. While Kiermaier is a defensive stud, I don’t believe it to be worth at the cost of Jeff McNeil.

Also read: Trading Block: Starling flying to Flushing?

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