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Examining a hypothetical Francisco Lindor trade for the Mets

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MLB.com proposed a deal to land the shortstop in Queens

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Despite more urgent needs at catcher, center field, and starting pitcher, the Mets are among the teams that could be targeting Cleveland’s superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor. The 27-year-old Lindor leads all shortstops in fWAR over the last three seasons and would significantly improve any team with his presence, a rare superstar veteran with potential room to grow.

And because the Mets suddenly have an owner with an expressed desire to spend money, a lot of fans and writers are drumming up conversation about a potential trade. Bradford Doolittle listed the Mets as the ninth-best fit for Lindor, while Joel Sherman advises the Mets to avoid trading for Lindor entirely. And on Sunday, MLB.com’s David Adler proposed a six-player trade that would put Lindor in orange and blue for the 2021 season.

His hypothetical deal would net the Mets Francisco Lindor and catcher Austin Hedges, with the Mets sending Andrés Giménez, Jeff McNeil, outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong, and right-handed relief pitching prospect Ryley Gilliam to Cleveland.

The top of the trade looks enticing for the Mets. Any reasonable trade proposal would likely include Giménez or Amed Rosario as a key piece, as Cleveland should want a major league caliber shortstop to replace Lindor in the short term. The Mets luckily have two, and even if Giménez projects higher than Rosario after just one shortened season, the fact that the Mets would be getting back an MVP-caliber player to fill the position makes his inclusion an easy one. And in the event Lindor doesn’t pan out well for the Mets, or he leaves in free agency after the 2021 season, Rosario would remain as a solid backup plan.

With Robinson Cano having been suspended for the entire 2021 season, McNeil seems like the most likely player to play second base on an everyday basis for the Mets—or to play third base in anticipation of the team adding another second baseman D.J. LeMahieu or Didi Gregorious. McNeil’s defensive versatility makes him more valuable than J.D. Davis or Brandon Nimmo, two very good hitters who don’t have a natural position on the field to occupy. If the Mets were to include Nimmo, Davis, or even Dom Smith in the deal instead of McNeil, then perhaps it would be easier to justify.

But from there, the logic of the trade breaks down. As Doolittle mentions in his article, Cleveland would likely want a top-tier prospect included in a trade package, and the Mets don’t really have any in their minor league system. To make up for that, Adler proposes the Mets send two prospects, pitcher Ryley Gilliam and 2020 first round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong. But that doesn’t make much sense for the Mets, either, as their farm system lays barren from years of mismanagement and bad trades. Team president Sandy Alderson has already made rebuilding the farm system one of his top priorities, and gutting it even further for one guaranteed year of Lindor seems reckless.

To counterbalance this, Adler suggests Cleveland also send catcher Austin Hedges as a sweetener. And while the Mets are in need of a starting catcher, Hedges isn’t necessarily the guy for the role. Baseball Prospectus ranks Hedges highly as a defensive standout, but he’s put up a wRC+ of 47 and 42 over the last two seasons, making him one of the very worst hitting catchers to get every day playing time. Giving Tomás Nido a chance to build on his shortened 2020 success makes much more sense for the Mets than starting Hedges every day.

Because of the inclusion of two prospects, one of which the team’s most recent first-round draft pick, the Mets would be smart to forgo this proposal. And if Cleveland really is looking for a top prospect, they might forgo this as well, making this the rare proposal that is too heavy for the Mets to offer and too light for Cleveland to accept. That doesn’t mean that both teams can’t come to an agreement that benefits the Mets—this one just isn’t it.