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Jeff McNeil 'Glad To Be Back' With Mets After Offseason Trade Rumors

Jeff McNeil is happy to still be with the Mets after being involved in offseason trade rumors.
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PORT ST. LUCIE - Although the offseason endured an 100-day lockout, which froze the hot stove for over three months, Jeff McNeil's name was brought up regularly as a potential trade chip for the Mets for much of the winter. 

Now that spring training has finally begun, albeit a month later than scheduled, McNeil can breathe a little easier since he is at camp with the Mets, which means all signs point to him remaining with the team this season. 

"It's business, it kind of is what it is," McNeil told Inside the Mets while sitting in front of his locker at Clover Park on Tuesday, regarding his name being involved in trade rumors. "But it means that you're kind've wanted on the market, which is nice, but I tried not to think too much about that.

"You see your name come up, but I'm just glad to be back, so I can do what I can to help this team."

The Mets received calls from several clubs around the league about McNeil's availability prior to the lockout. However, it appears as though the returns being offered didn't match the price of a hitter, who slashed .319/.383/.501/.884 through his first 1,000 career at-bats in the major-leagues. 

The McNeil trade rumors are likely done for the offseason, and now he is focused on getting back to business, which is preparing for the 2022 season as a New York Met. 

"You don't know where you're going to be in the offseason, but once you get here It's business as usual," McNeil said. "You just kind of put that behind you, and It's all business now."

McNeil struggled at the plate a season ago, slashing .251/.319/.360/.679 with seven home runs and 35 RBI. Regardless, the Mets aren't giving up on the 2019 All-Star, and weren't going to give him away unless the price was right.

With the Mets seemingly done adding anymore significant pieces offensively, they will need McNeil to revert back his previous form at the plate. 

According to McNeil, he was tinkering with his swing a lot last year to try to fight out of his slump. This season, he intends on simplifying his approach in order to produce a bounce-back campaign. 

"I just kind of put it behind me," he said. "(I) came into spring training with a fresh mind and feeling good. I'm in a positive place."

One aspect that's working in favor of McNeil getting back to his old ways offensively is the addition of new hitting coach Eric Chavez, who has stressed the importance of simplifying things for his hitters. 

"It's been awesome," McNeil said about working with Chavez, "He communicates well. He was a fantastic hitter in the big-leagues, and someone whose done it before, so I've learned some things from him."

Chavez endured a successful 17-year big-league career of his own, which has helped him gain the trust of McNeil and the rest of the Mets' offense, rather quickly. 

"It's great, (Chavez) has been in the same shoes as we have," McNeil said. "He understands how hard it is at times, so It's nice because when you're struggling a little bit, so is he. 

"He's there for the players to help us get through those times. It's easy to trust him, and it should be fantastic having him here." 

McNeil is currently projected to be the Mets' starting second baseman this season. And as Buck Showalter mentioned afterwards, McNeil will be the primary starter at the position with Robinson Cano seeing some time there as well. Showalter went onto reveal that McNeil will also continue to receive some playing time in the outfield.   

Last season, McNeil got into an early-season dust up with star shortstop Francisco Lindor, which resulted in the infamous rat-raccoon incident. Lindor was rumored to have pinned McNeil up against the tunnel wall in the clubhouse by his throat after a miscommunication resulted in a misplayed ground ball up the middle in the previous half-inning. 

Earlier today, Lindor said he and McNeil have gotten past this previous incident, and are all good. And McNeil reiterated his double-play partner's comments.

"Oh yeah, 100%," McNeil said of his altercation with Lindor. "It was behind us last year. We're still boys, and I love playing with him. It's definitely behind us."

With McNeil expected to be the Mets' main second baseman this year, he and Lindor will need to have good chemistry on defense. And McNeil believes they're getting to that point. 

"We're great there," he said. "I love playing up the middle with him. He's an extremely special defender, so It's fun to watch him do his thing (at shortstop).