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The Mets should pay Francisco Lindor

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The opportunity to retain Lindor for the long term is one the Mets shouldn’t whiff on.

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Mets Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Negotiations between the Mets and Francisco Lindor regarding a long-term contract have remained in the same state for a couple of days now. The Mets have let it be known that they offered Lindor a ten-year, $325 million deal, putting public pressure on the elite shortstop to accept the deal and framing it as their “best and final” offer. Lindor countered with an ask for a twelve-year, $385 million contract.

A contract somewhere in that range would put a Lindor extension up with some of the biggest ones in baseball history: Mookie Betts’s twelve-year, $365 million extension with the Dodgers, Mike Trout’s ten-year, $360 million extension with the Angels that brought their total commitment to him to twelve years and $426.5 million, Fernando Tatis’s fourteen-year, $340 million extension with the Padres, and Giancarlo Stanton’s thirteen-year, $325 million extension with the Marlins. It’s a lot of money, but it’s not all that much relative to the amount of money in Major League Baseball or Mets owner Steve Cohen.

Some portion of Mets fans are balking at Lindor’s counter-offer, worrying that the tail end of a deal of ten years or more will hinder the Mets’ ability to build competitive teams a decade from now. Let’s say the Mets go all the way up to Lindor’s proposed deal and take a look at the amount of guaranteed money the team would have on the books moving forward, assuming an equal average annual value over the course of his contract:

  • 2022: $125 million
  • 2023: $101 million
  • 2024: $44 million
  • 2025: $32 million
  • 2026: $32 million
  • 2027: $32 million
  • 2028: $32 million
  • 2029: $32 million
  • 2030: $32 million
  • 2031: $32 million
  • 2032: $32 million
  • 2033: $32 million

Simply put, even Lindor’s suggested extension wouldn’t cost enough money to put a significant dent in the Mets’ long-term plans, even if it takes him through his age-39 season. Players like Lindor don’t come along all that often, and the Mets under the Wilpons simply never entertained the notion of acquiring such a player. Over the past couple of decades, the most the Mets were willing to do was extend David Wright and Jacob deGrom, both of whom signed pretty team-friendly deals at the time they extended.

Those who scoff at the amount of years and money being discussed here might say that they’d prefer to let Lindor hit free agency after the 2021 season in a market that could include several other shortstops of note, with Corey Seager, Trevor Story, and Carlos Correa among the better names. But it’s entirely possible that some of those players sign extensions of their own between now and the end of the season. Even if none of them do, you only have to look back to the Mets’ offseason that just happened to see that even a team with a boatload of money can whiff in free agency when there are other teams involved in negotiations. And perhaps most importantly, Lindor is the best player of them all.

Asked about what the Mets should do with Lindor, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso said yesterday: “I mean, pay him $400 [million].” Asked if Lindor is a $400 million player in a follow-up, Alonso said:

Absolutely. No question about it. Not only is he a superstar on the field, he pays attention, he works hard, he cares about his teammates, and not only does he have the quantifiable numbers of a superstar, he has the x-factor. And what he brings to a clubhouse is tremendous and can’t be measured, along with his superstar talent. I hope they pay him $400 million. He’s worth every penny of what he decides.

Lindor is the most significant position player for whom the Mets have traded since Mike Piazza, a fellow franchise-altering player. A few months after that trade, the Mets signed Piazza to a seven-year, $91 million contract that was the richest deal in baseball history at the time. The economics of baseball have clearly changed since then, but the concept is the same: Players on this level don’t come around all that often, and when your favorite team has the opportunity to keep one long term, it should. And if it does, fans should celebrate.