The Mets have a tiger by the tail in Francisco Lindor. While the temptation is to wrap him up long-term, it’s wiser to take a deep breath.
Arguably, the Mets have the best all-around shortstop in the game today for the duration of the 2021 season via a trade with the Cleveland Indians.
With Lindor’s impending free agency following this year’s World Series looming, the lure of wrapping their All-Star up with a long-term deal similar to the one inked by Fernando Tatis before then is almost too much to bear, especially for Mets fans who know greatness when they see it.
But therein lies the rub. No one has seen anything from Lindor wearing orange and blue.
Moreover, Lindor himself has yet to take the field as a New York Met or play a single game in his new home ballpark at Citi Field.
The odds say no, but what if Lindor turns out to be another deer in the headlights player who withers from the strain of playing in the Big Apple, where the spotlight never dims.
Again, the odds say no, but what if the Mets decide along the way that Trevor Story or Cory Seaver is a better fit for the Mets team than Lindor, opting to pursue either in next year’s shortstop overload of free agents?
Mets: Caution Is The Better Part Of Valor
In sum, commitments at this stage are a risky business for both the Mets and Lindor and therefore, what’s the rush to plow forward with an extension?
Assuming the major league season is played through with no interruptions, the Mets will soon know what they have in Lindor.
One hundred at-bats through April will tell way more than all the chatter and predictions we hear now.
Moreover, what’s the worst possible outcome if there is no extension agreement now or soon?
Nothing – Lindor becomes a free agent at the end of the season – and if they wish, the Mets and Steve Cohen can blow all bidders away to sign Lindor then.
For his part, Lindor is playing both sides of the fence, telling ESPN he has “never been shy” about an extension (now). On the reverse side, he’s also been quoted as telling Bleacher Report saying, “I’ve never been afraid of free agency.”
Don’t burn bridges; either way, a wise move.
Mets: Open Wounds Leaves Scars
Once bitten twice shy, the Mets have seen more than their share of “the grass is greener” contracts awarded to players who eventually had to sneak out of town when their on-field performance did not match their inflated paychecks.
Jason Bay (4-years $60 million 2010), Oliver Perez (4-years $36 million 2008), Yoenis Cespedes (4-years $80.42 million 2016), and more recently, the Mets share of the deal back in 2014 that pays Robinson Cano $228.26 million over the span of 10 years.
So okay, the Mets have proven all that glitters is not always gold.
But the nagging question that lingers is if Francisco Lindor is the exception to the rule – in a class all by himself – and therefore worthy of a long-term deal that keeps him in a Mets uniform beyond just this season?
On the surface, you can argue that Lindor, with his Latin roots and omnipresent smile, is tailor-made for New York City, and Mets fans will gravitate to him like they once did with Jose Reyes.
For Steve Cohen, this means that Lindor will, as George Steinbrenner so delicately said about Reggie Jackson, “put asses in the seats,” helping to boost Mets attendance to where it should be in the first place. (post-COVID, of course).
But the Mets are not looking for, nor do they need, a poster-boy to be a favorite among fans. Brandon Nimmo would have signed a ten-year deal to play with the Mets long ago if they did.
Is Lindor The Outlier?
Instead, despite all the fluff and good-will, the pressure is on Francisco Lindor to deliver for the Mets numbers equal to or better than he has delivered before with his parent team, the Cleveland Indians.
Once an All-Star, always an All-Star is probably a true statement.
But with this much at stake financially for both the Mets and Lindor, a practice lap around the track seems in good order before long-range commitments are made.
Typically, contract extensions are discussed before Opening Day and never during the season.
That alone puts a time strain on any agreement of such proportions, something the Mets especially are attuned to as they seek to put the finishing touches on a roster that is expected to create considerable noise during the 2021 season.
The Mets are in a similar situation with Michael Conforto, who also reaches free agency status at the end of this season.
However, in Conforto’s case, the wild-card is that Scott Boras is his agent, and almost always, Boras urges his clients to explore the free-agent market before committing prematurely.
Mets: Test-Fire The Rocket – It Can’t Hurt
Much like a marriage proposal and the interim period of “engagement” before the “I do’s” at the altar, or in this case an introductory press conference, there are no outlets save for divorce once the vows are sealed.
But as revealing, and just as there are no guarantees in a marriage once consummated, the period of engagement, or even as in this case of Lindor and the Mets “living together” for a year might not be such a bad idea.
While this is not necessarily a case of high-school sweethearts uniting years later, Lindor is about to enter a world he has never seen before in the dim lights of a small market Cleveland-based team.
No doubt, there is not a bone in Lindor’s body that doesn’t say – “go for it” – all the way and don’t look back, it might be up to his “parents” – the New York Mets to draw a line suggesting their thoroughbred take a deep breath.
That is, as long as both sides think with their heads and not their hearts.