Are you exhausted? I’m exhausted. Imagine how exhausted the Mets and Francisco Lindor would feel right now if they had endured all of that stress and drama and HADN’T completed a long-term extension.
Here are five quick thoughts on Lindor’s 10-year, $341-million deal with the Mets, which starts next year and goes through 2031.
1. Who would’ve thought that the San Diego Padres would dictate the terms of this marriage from beginning to end? On Jan. 8, the morning after the Mets acquired Lindor from the Indians, I wrote that, in order to buy Lindor out of free agency this November, the Mets would need to offer “something that tops the 10-year, $300 million package that Manny Machado landed with the Padres in February 2019.” Then, before Lindor even arrived in Port St. Lucie, the Padres topped that themselves, guaranteeing $340 million to their young shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (for whom Machado slid over to third base). That latter number turned out to be the threshold that Lindor wanted to clear, albeit more in symbolism than in reality thanks to the deferred money involved.
Yup, players are very competitive with each other. All humans are, actually. For my next contract extension with The Post, I’m going to try to get exactly $1 million more than Andrew Marchand.
2. Is this the riskiest contract in baseball history? No. Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees), Jason Heyward (Cubs) and even Trevor Bauer (Dodgers) come to mind as deals that prompted more of an “Oh, boy, I don’t know about that” reaction, measuring the dollars against the accomplishments/projections/fit. Yet this ranks as the third-largest commitment in the sport’s history, and I’d say it ranks as a notably larger risk than the two above it.
The Angels threw another $360 million at Mike Trout in 2019, on top of the $66.5 million they already owed him, and we’re talking about a guy very much on track to be an all-time top-10 player. The Dodgers guaranteed Mookie Betts $365 million knowing that he had shined in the killer American League East, in the killer market that is Boston.
Through no fault of his own, Lindor has played only for the team that drafted him, the Indians, which competes in a small market and arguably baseball’s worst division, the AL Central. He’s also coming off a 2020 season, albeit one shortened and defined by a pandemic, that was his worst. He has looked great in spring training. His bubbly personality (little-known fact: His nickname is “Mr. Smile”) sure seems like it’ll fly in the Big Apple. You don’t know until you know, however. And we don’t know.
3. The upside to running a big-market team like a mid-market club? When you finally sell, you leave a pretty open canvas for the successor. With Lindor, Steve Cohen has so much runway, even within the context of normal baseball payrolls, to get far more done. The only albatross left behind by the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen is Robinson Cano, and at $20.5 million for 2022 and 2023, that’s not too bad for the currently suspended second baseman.
Michael Conforto presents an interesting challenge for Cohen: How can the hedge-fund titan fare against the baseball-representation equivalent Scott Boras? If the Mets can tie up Conforto, either now or next offseason, they’ll put their position-playing corps in such a strong position that they can plan to spend their free-agent dollars on starting pitching, be it their own guys Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman or interesting older guys like Lance Lynn, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.
4. I’d like to propose that we impose a $50 fine on anyone who asks, “What does this mean for Ronny Mauricio?” through Dec. 31 of this year.
Mauricio, a top Mets prospect, does play shortstop. He’s also 19 years old. He hasn’t played above the Class A South Atlantic League, which occurred in 2019.
Maybe he’ll turn out to be a fantastic shortstop and therefore, with Lindor sticking around, a trade chip. Maybe he can learn to play third base if J.D. Davis doesn’t blossom. Maybe he’ll flame out due to injury and/or performance issues.
Definitely, leave the kid alone for now. Let him enjoy a return to minor-league ball after last year’s COVID challenges. On New Year’s Day 2022, you can ask what the Lindor contract means for Mauricio.
5. We should and will define this contract as a seminal moment for Cohen’s ownership of this team. Yet let’s not forget the imprint of Sandy Alderson, who returned to the organization as team president when Cohen took over. Alderson drew a reputation as a careful economic sort when he served as general manager under the Wilpons. When you look at Alderson’s history, though, you see how much he likes colorful stars.
His 1980s and ‘90s A’s employed Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, among others. He reveled in Bartolo Colon’s unique Mets persona. He pushed hard for the Mets to sign Tim Tebow and appreciated Yoenis Cespedes’ star power (perhaps too much, ultimately) after trading for him. He spoke openly about how much Bauer intrigued him.
George Springer is an October stud and a community-pillar type. J.T. Realmuto is revered by his teammates. Neither can match Lindor for star wattage.
Cohen landed his first star. Alderson landed his latest one.
This week’s Pop Quiz question came from Gary Mintz of South Huntington: In a 1971 episode of “The Brady Bunch,” Bobby Brady dreams that he hits a home run off a major-league pitcher. Name the pitcher.
Back in 2019 (which feels like 50 years ago), I touted a live reading of Don DeLillo’s short story “Pafko at the Wall,” featuring well-known actors Billy Crudup, Zack Levi and Tony Shalhoub. Simon & Schuster Audio is now releasing an audio book based on that reading.
The Pop Quiz answer is Dave McNally.
If you have a tidbit that connects baseball to popular culture, please send it to me at [email protected].