By Alec Walt
The New York Mets have been making a lot of noise this offseason since billionaire Steve Cohen officially became owner of the team. He’s committed to building a contender in New York and made it clear he’s willing to make moves in his first season. Francisco Lindor is one of the best players in baseball entering the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Indians. With no extension in sight, the clock is ticking for Lindor in Cleveland.
The Indians find themselves in a position no team wants to find themselves in. They have a superstar on their roster and they can’t afford to pay the superstar price. Since the Indians aren’t contending in 2020, they have no reason to hold onto Lindor before he hits the open market. There’s strong reason to believe a trade could come this offseason.
Even though a trade seems inevitable, it’s uncertain how many teams are targeting Lindor. COVID-19 affected every team in the MLB and that’s not great news for the Indians. Very few teams have been active in free agency and less teams are showing an interest in spending big money. With one year, $21.5 million remaining on Lindor’s current contract, there’s a shrinking market for teams willing to go “all in” for 2021 and pay a massive extension on top of it. That’s no longer an issue in Queens.
The Mets are a large market team that can now start doing business like it. Cohen is the richest owner in the MLB and second in professional sports behind LA Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer. In less than two months, Cohen’s won over an entire fanbase and put the Mets on the baseball map.
While Cohen’s brought energy to the Mets, they haven’t made a splash yet this offseason. Marcus Stroman accepted his qualifying offer and Trevor May signed in free agency, so they’ve still filled some needs while most of the league remained quiet. With Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto already on the roster, the Mets remain a few moves away from World Series contention. Adding Lindor is exactly what the Mets need to become true contenders in 2021.
Lindor received the call up to the MLB during the 2015 season and immediately made a name for himself. He won the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year and was nominated to the next four All-Star games. The added bonus is he’s played on three playoff teams and one that won the American League in 2016. Trading for Lindor adds a superstar talent that also knows how to win.
Even though Lindor would flip the franchise, he did struggle in 2020. Lindor finished the 60-game season hitting .258 with eight home runs and 37 RBI’s. The average is certainly an outlier from the .285 in his career, but he was still on pace for just over 20 home runs and barely under 100 RBI’s. Last season the Indians dealt with constant trade questions, Terry Francona’s absence, COVID-19 issues between teammates and little lineup consistency. There was a lot Lindor had to deal with last season. At 27 years old, there’s no reason to believe that’ll become a yearly trend.
Let’s take a look at how the Mets would pull off a trade:
The one player who is automatically in the deal is OF/1B Dom Smith. Last season Smith hit .316 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI’s. He can replace Carlos Santana at first base or play a corner outfield spot. Other guys who could be moved from the pro roster are Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis. Nimmo provides a bat in left field and Davis can play both corner infield and outfield positions. Smith and Davis are under team control through 2024 and Nimmo through 2022.
In the farm system, SS Ronny Maurico, C Francisco Alvarez and 3B Brett Baty highlight the Mets system in the MLB top-100 list. The Indians top three position player prospects play those three positions, but that shouldn’t make them weary of making this deal. With five of the Indians top 12 prospects shortstops, Alvarez and Baty are two guys the Indians should have on their radar.
Alvarez is one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball. Even with Bo Naylor in the system, adding a catcher with offensive upside is never a bad idea. With Baty, he’s not better or going to replace Nolan Jones, but he has the most slugging upside in the Mets system. He’s primarily a third baseman, but he has first base and outfield versatility. The Indians need to find ways to improve their lineup and the Mets have plenty of quality bats to pull off this move.
A trade between the Mets and Indians makes a lot of sense. The Mets add a star player to a contending team, while the Indians load up on cheap bats to pair with the elite rotation. Lindor’s time in Cleveland is coming to an end. Cohen should make sure he retires as a Met.