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Six months ago you are told a New York team is obtaining Francisco Lindor.
Who you got?
Because when reality hit Thursday, it wasn’t the Yankees. Instead, in the strongest symbol yet that baseball life in New York has changed with Steve Cohen as Mets owner, it was Sandy Alderson and Jared Porter in a Zoom conference explaining how and why they had obtained one of the best and most magnetic players in the sport.
We have seen this before. Carlos Beltran as a free agent and Johan Santana in a trade were generally preordained to the Yankees. The Mets landed both. Yet, this feels different. Because as big as it is, it feels like an appetizer of what the Mets can — and now likely — will do. This plays like the beginning of the beginning of not merely dabbling in the heavyweight division when it comes to stars, but residing there under Cohen.
The Mets acquired Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from the Indians on Thursday for Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, pitching prospect Josh Wolf and outfield prospect Isaiah Greene.
Lindor was down offensively in the 2020 shortened pandemic season. You can find a few detractors who say his results have been buoyed by playing in a weak AL Central or that he has become too power conscious, hurting his overall production. What you will find more of, however, are reviews of a brilliant player on both sides of the ball — maybe the best defensive shortstop in the game — who just turned 27 in November and has a bubbly, infectious, high-octane personality that radiates on the field.
As one NL executive praised, “The Mets just made themselves a legit World Series contender by adding a franchise player to the top of their roster.”
When Cohen became Mets owner he cited the actual World Series champions for whom he wanted to emulate, lauding the Dodgers for functioning well in all realms. And the first substantial move of his tenure was to essentially mimic the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts trade. The Mets obtained a 27-year-old star entering his walk season. They had the financial might to also take on a starting pitcher (like the Dodgers did with David Price) in Carrasco to lower the quality of the return package.
Los Angeles worked out a 12-year, $365 million extension with Betts before last year’s belated start to the season. Alderson said the Mets were comfortable with this trade having not even had a conversation with Lindor’s agent and will “broach” the issue in the coming weeks. But this isn’t like the Wilpon Mets telling you they “are monitoring” a situation. This trade was made with the intention to keep Lindor — and under this ownership that feels like more than intention.
You also believe the Mets are not done. Alderson skirted whether the Mets are still in at the top of the market, notably for George Springer. But the Lindor acquisition puts them on the board in a big way to allow greater comfort to wait out that market or any other. To this point no team has come close to spending the $75 million-ish the Mets have in this slow-moving free-agent bazaar or making a trade as substantial as Lindor/Carrasco, which adds roughly $31 million to just the 2021 Mets payroll.
More will come — big and small. This year and the future. It is just different for the Mets now.
“We are always hungry,” Alderson said when asked about his appetite for another huge move.
The bottom line is that Cohen has a different bottom line than the Wilpons. And, for now, the Yankees.
New York’s other team is playing hardball with DJ LeMahieu, planning to go under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold. They ignored a shortstop that in many ways fits them better than the Mets — all because of financial reasons. That is the line always expected from the Queens branch of baseball New York.
It should be remembered that the Mets did get Beltran and Santana, but made the playoffs once in their tenures. The Yankees — after a 2008-09 offseason financial splurge — won the World Series. So let’s avoid being victims of the moment. The Yanks, in fact, still might have a larger 2021 payroll than the Mets if Cohen’s suggestions of staying under the luxury tax too are fulfilled.
Still, in this snapshot, it is the Mets who secured the star. And while that is not unique. What is when it comes to this organization is this — it felt like just the beginning.
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