WASHINGTON — Well, if Francisco Lindor’s 11-year tenure with theth Mets goes as dramatically as the discussions that landed him that deal in the first place, this will be one hell of a Citi Field ride.
Steve Cohen landed his first big fish. Lindor broke a record, if not the record. And the Mets can launch their 2021 season in a great frame of mind Thursday night at Nationals Park against the Nationals, gleefully anticipating the hero’s welcome that awaits Lindor at the April 8 home opener.
Good for the Mets. Good for Lindor. Good for Major League Baseball.
With Lindor’s Opening Day deadline approaching, the recently acquired shortstop and his new team agreed Wednesday night on a 10-year, $341 million extension, as first reported by Jon Heyman of the MLB Network. Both sides moved off their seemingly intractable positions — the Mets at 10 years and $325 million and Lindor at 12 years and $385 million — to find common ground and remind us once more not to get too caught up in “best and final” offers and such inefficient verbiage.
Sure, some professional skeptics like me might postulate that it would make more sense for the two sides to get to know each other for a year before diving into the deep end of the relationship pool, and perhaps such caution will prove wise in due time. If that happens, it’ll present another big test for baseball’s richest owner: How much will be pay to erase mistakes?
No reason for Debbie Downer to rule this day, though. Cohen, having purchased the team from the financially compromised Wilpons and Katzes, needed to validate Mets fans’ hopes that they no longer had to serve as observers in baseball’s star wars.
Lindor gets more than double the $150 million the Blue Jays gave George Springer, the winter’s top free agent, and more than Springer and J.T. Realmuto ($115.5 million from the Phillies) totaled, and more than triple the $102 million Trevor Bauer received from the Dodgers, albeit in a deferred package.
Lindor sure would’ve put his neck on the line by taking his $385 million ask all the way to November. That figure would’ve set the industry mark for “new money,” topping the $365 million the Dodgers gave Mookie Betts last year. Instead, Lindor settled for edging the $340 million the Padres guaranteed their shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. over 14 years. It sure seems like a good call.
The Mets, meanwhile, moved off their $325 million offer that sure felt reasonable in its own right. They clearly wanted to get this done after landing Lindor from the Indians in January. Making him a Met for life gives them an imposing position-playing core with Lindor joining Pete Alonso, Dom Smith, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, J.D. Davis and veteran catcher James McCann, all of them under control through at least 2022. Cohen can afford to let Michael Conforto, the impending free agent, play through this season and then contend seriously for his services in free agency.
On Wednesday, as the Mets worked out here, manager Luis Rojas said of Lindor, “There’s a lot of things he brings to the table. His personality makes him what he is. It’s attractive to everyone. It feels like he’s been here for a longer period of time [than a couple of months].”
He’ll be here a lot longer now. If Lindor didn’t receive the $400 million that Alonso advocated for him, he did very, very well for himself. Very well for the Mets, who are changing their brand. And for MLB, which sees one of its most dynamic stars stick with a sleeping giant of a jewel franchise.
The real drama, the real fun, starts now. Lindor is all aboard, all in. And suddenly life with the Mets just became a lot more interesting.