PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jeff McNeil made three errors in a game, is batting .071 and had his contract renewed by the Mets this week.
Not his best spring training.
Still, McNeil was able to shrug off the errors because they came at third base on Sunday and he’s going to be mostly a second baseman in the wake of Robinson Cano’s steroid suspension.
The batting average? Everyone knows McNeil is a hitting machine.
And the inability to come to an agreement with the Mets on his 2021 salary and having it imposed on him? Well, it happened to Pete Alonso, too, and both immensely popular Mets say they are not going to take it personally.
Alonso will be paid $676,775 and McNeil $642,251, according to The Associated Press. Alonso’s base salary in 2020 (before it was reduced because of the shortened season) was $652,521. McNeil’s was $617,676.
The renewals are a bit surprising when you consider how important McNeil and Alonso are to the Mets. But that’s how the system is set up for players who have less than three years of service time. They have no leverage other than the hope that the club doesn’t want to potentially poison the relationship when it has the hammer.
"Not disappointed at all," said McNeil, who was off on Friday as the Mets lost to Miami, 4-2, at Clover Park. "As a zero-to-three player, we thought it was best for [this] point in my career to just renew it and go from there. Main thing right now is go out and play and let it take care of itself."
Said Alonso: "Absolutely no bitterness at all. Right now, there’s very little that I can do because I’m a zero-to-three player. And this is one of those circumstances where this is the only right I have and I thought it would be best to exercise that right.’’
The "right" Alonso was referring to apparently is the right to not agree to the Mets’ figure and to instead have the contract imposed on him.
On Wednesday, the Mets announced they had agreed to terms with 15 players, all younger ones who aren’t arbitration-eligible, before Thursday’s contract deadline. For example, lefthander David Peterson agreed to a contract worth $585,750, according to AP. Alonso and McNeil were the only two Mets not to agree.
In all, eight players around baseball were renewed, including last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, Kyle Lewis of the Mariners, and last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber.
The players will have their bite at the money apple when they become arbitration-eligible and their salaries can skyrocket from year to year. For Alonso and McNeil, that could come as soon as 2022, depending on what happens in collective bargaining between the owners and players at the end of this year — and how they perform on the field, of course.
McNeil goes into his fourth big-league season with a career batting average of .319. Manager Luis Rojas used a lineup on Thursday that may have been a preview of the one he will use on Opening Day. McNeil was batting sixth.
"I’m comfortable kind of hitting anywhere," he said. "It doesn’t really matter. I am used to hitting first or second. I think I’ve probably had the most success in the big leagues hitting second just because I know that bat control I have plays . . . But wherever they decide to hit me, I’m OK with it."
Alonso is having the opposite type of camp from McNeil. He is batting .333 after hitting his second home run Thursday night and going 1-for-2 with an RBI double to right-center on Friday.
"I’m extremely, extremely satisfied with how everything’s going right now," he said. "I just want to kind of continue this good form, this good momentum."