New York Mets fans are finally seeing what it’s like to have a billionaire owner willing to break the bank to bring a championship to Queens. Or, put another way, to have leadership willing to do things the way the Yankees do.
With Francisco Lindor coming to town, via a six-player trade with the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, the Mets are getting a face-of-the-franchise player and Lindor is getting a new home that perfectly fits his star power.
The next step seems obvious: The Mets need to do what Cleveland wouldn’t — pay Lindor every penny he’s worth and watch him play in a Mets uniform for the next decade.
If you’ve watched him play, you know Lindor is smooth on the field. If you’ve encountered him off the field, seen his big smile and realized how affable he is, you know he’s the type of baseball player who would thrive in the Big Apple.
The kid has had stardom written all over his face since the beginning. Now at 27, he’s one of those few baseball players who can reach superstardom.
On paper, Lindor is a rental, with free agency is coming after the 2021 season. But the Mets have both the money and the need to turn Lindor into the face of their franchise. Due respect to Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso, but no one in baseball has a smile as bright as Lindor.
That’s why this wasn’t just a perfect match between trade partners, it’s a perfect match of star and circumstance too.
New billionaire owner Steve Cohen is committed to making this team a winner. The Mets are still trying to get one of the 2021’s biggest free agents in George Springer or Trevor Bauer but that’s no reason not to lock up 2022’s top free agent ahead of time. And after playing the first part of his career in Cleveland, Lindor could use a taste of what big-market stardom is.
Mets president Sandy Alderson admitted in a press conference Thursday there was no guarantee that Lindor would stick around long-term, but said the team would start those talks soon.
"We're comfortable with that and what we might be able to do going forward,” he said about the Lindor deal.
While Alderson wasn’t projecting supreme confidence about Lindor staying, baseball pundits were, even before the trade was official.
It's difficult to imagine the Mets making this trade without every intention of signing Lindor to a long-term deal. He should be in New York for a long time - and potentially be the biggest star in the city.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 7, 2021
This is the infielder version of the Mookie Betts trade. There's no reason to believe that Francisco Lindor won't be staying with the #Mets instead of testing free agency.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 7, 2021
Mookie Betts is the best comparison in every possible way. When the Dodgers got him from the Red Sox last winter, it was a similar type of deal — equal discouragement for one fan base; equal elation for another.
The Dodgers signed Betts to a 12-year extension before opening day, then went on to win a World Series. The Mets aren’t as close to a championship as the Dodgers were. They still have to get past, well, the Dodgers, for one. But even if Lindor can get the Mets past the Braves in the NL East, that would be seen as a proper reward for what the Mets gave up.
Lindor is the same age Betts was at the time of the extension. While it’s true shortstops don’t age the same way outfielders do, Lindor seems like the type of middle infielder you’d sign for a decade-plus.
Betts’ deal was worth $365 million. Manny Machado, the last infielder of Lindor’s caliber to hit free agency, signed for 10 years and $300 million. Lindor may not command as much as Betts — who resides in a tier of his own behind only Mike Trout — but the Mets making an offer that starts with a three would probably get things off to a good start.
Cohen and the Mets did make a splash Thursday by adding Lindor. Fans love it. It will help the team. And they’ll be the envy of other penny-pinching fanbases.
But this is only part one. Now the Mets need to keep Lindor around long-term to prove they aren’t the same old Mets anymore.
After all, it’s what the Yankees would do.
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