After signing a seven-year, $119 million contract in the winter of 2004, Carlos Beltran was a bit of a letdown for the Mets in his first year with the team. He posted career lows in almost every single offensive category, and he spent most of that year some form of banged up with nagging injuries. In 2006, a healthy Beltran rebounded, setting career highs in just about every statistic he hit a nadir in the year prior. Of course, his 2006 is remembered for one pitch rather than the 170+ games that came before that moment, but 2006 is what fans think of when Beltran’s name is invoked. With a good 2022, Francisco Lindor’s 2021 can be as dead and buried as Beltran’s 2005.
That’s not to say that Lindor’s 2021 was a bad season, because it wasn’t, it’s just that it wasn’t the Francisco Lindor season that the past half decade has led us to expect from him. According to Baseball-Reference, Lindor was worth 3.1 wins above replacement while putting up a 101 OPS+ to go along with 20 homers and 10 steals. If Jed Lowrie had those numbers in 2019, it’s safe to say we’d be pretty stoked about another Brodie Van Wagenen Masterclass, but Lindor is better, younger, and a lot less deceased than Lowrie was, and it’s only natural to expect more from him.
As far as 2022 goes, there are really only two paths that he can go down, and the first is the most predictable of the pair. If Lindor has another season more in line with his abbreviated 2020 or iffy 2021, he spends the next decade in New York as The Guy Who Just Couldn’t Cut It while the WFAN lines are clogged with Mikey from Oyster Bay calling him Frankie Alomar, no matter how many All-Star Games he is selected to or Gold Gloves he collects in 2023 and beyond.
The second, and more appealing, of the two possible paths is one of redemption and success. The ideal season sees Lindor return to the form that made him a national star in Cleveland, smiling his way to four consecutive seasons of All-Star appearances and awards from 2016-2019. Maybe Lindor gets over that first season bump and goes back to the 30 home run, 20 stolen base seasons that made him deserving of the $342 million that the Mets guaranteed to him. From that point, Lindor can spend the next decade no longer being The Next Alomar, but instead, he can be The First Lindor.