The New York Mets are about to enter their first season with a new owner, and they're definitely acting like it.
According to Jon Heyman, the Mets and shortstop Francisco Lindor have agreed to a long-term deal in the final hours before Lindor's self-imposed opening day negotiation deadline. ESPN's Jeff Passan reports the pact is for 10 years and $341 million. It will begin in 2022, so Lindor is tied to the Mets for the next 11 seasons.
The contract's total dollar value exceeds fellow shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.'s monster extension with the San Diego Padres — signed earlier this offseason — by $1 million. At $34.1 million per year, it also barely tops Trevor Bauer's contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the highest average annual value deal of this offseason.
The deal had been a hot topic of speculation since he joined the Mets in a trade earlier this winter — as Lindor was seemingly destined to follow in the footsteps of the Dodgers' blockbuster acquisition and then extension of Mookie Betts. The noise picked up over the weekend as new Mets owner Steve Cohen tweeted about the negotiations and was reported to have dined with Lindor.
Lindor, 27, made his debut in 2015 with the Cleveland, the only team he'd ever known until this past winter. Cleveland picked him with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, and once he debuted he wasted no time living up to the hype of a highly ranked prospect. He hit .313/.353/.482 in 99 games in 2015, and came in second for AL Rookie of the Year.
Over the next five seasons, he received MVP votes four times, made the All-Star Game four times, and won two Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves. He made it within one win of a World Series trophy in 2016, and earned a reputation as a smooth fielder, a productive hitter, and the man with the best smile in all of baseball. In his six major-league seasons, Lindor has hit .285/.346/.488. By Baseball-Reference's WAR, he's been the sixth most valuable position player in the game over that time.
Cleveland's cheapness was Mets' good fortune
Lindor is the kind of player any team would want to lock down for the long term — any team but the one he was previously with. It seemed obvious that Cleveland would sign Lindor to an extension eventually, but it never materialized. As Lindor got closer and closer to free agency, it became clear that he was going to want a contract that paid him what he was worth, which was way more than Cleveland wanted to pay him.
Cleveland's unwillingness to pay one of the franchise's most beloved players was the Mets' good fortune. To get some kind of value out of Lindor before he hit free agency, Cleveland put him on the trade market. Under Cohen, the mega-rich new owner, the Mets prevailed in trade talks and sent shortstop Andrés Giménez, shortstop Amed Rosario, outfielder Isaiah Greene and pitcher Josh Wolf to Cleveland in exchange for Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
That was a lot to give up if Lindor wasn't going to sign an extension. He had just one year before free agency, and the Mets gave up two of their top 10 prospects to land him. Signing him to an extension was a priority, and team president Sandy Alderson was feeling pretty good about the Mets' chances all the way back in January when the trade went down.
“I think we do have optimism,” Alderson said in January via MLB.com. “I think what we have to offer is a great city, a great baseball city, an organization that we hope is on the rise. There’s a lot of excitement associated with new ownership. I think there are a lot of reasons why we should be optimistic about any follow-up decision that we want to make.”
Now the Mets have a top-tier shortstop locked down for years to come, who is part of their push to reestablish their relevancy and become a consistent playoff team. Cleveland, on the other hand, has a payroll under $50 million, one of the lowest in all of baseball.
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