With the additions of Robinson Canó and Jed Lowrie during the offseason and the return of Amed Rosario and Todd Frazier, the Mets’ infield is spoken for at all four positions. That leaves Jeff McNeil, who played 54 of his 58 games at second base last season, on the outside looking in.
Per Matt Ehalt of The Record, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said in an interview on WFAN about McNeil, “His focus in spring training is going to be a transition to the outfield because we think we can be a lethal lineup with a McNeil, [Michael] Conforto, [Brandon] Nimmo outfield against right-handed pitching.”
McNeil, 26, last played the outfield regularly in college. He said, “It’s been a while since I’ve played games, but just about every day in the minor leagues I was taking fly balls. For the most part, I feel really comfortable and I felt really comfortable there when I played in college. That was a while ago, but I had some games out there last year. I played really well out there, so I’m not too worried.”
Last season, McNeil hit a highly productive .329/.381/.471 in 248 plate appearances. Albeit in a small sample size, McNeil didn’t show much of a platoon split in 2018, posting an .866 OPS against right-handers and .812 against lefties. It sounds like the Mets are hoping to get him work in left field initially since it’s the easiest of the three outfield positions to learn.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.