By Lenn Robbins
The first reaction was disbelief.
When was the last time the Mets pulled off a deal like this at a time like this? When was the last time the Mets acquired a platinum-haired, super-splash player like Francisco Lindor, a dynamo on both sides of the line, in the zenith of his career? When was last time the Mets owned the MLB off-season like they do right now?
The Mets have been involved in their share of big deals, from Keith Hernandez, to Mike Piazza, to Roberto Alomar, to Johan Santana, to Yeonis Cespedes, but never have Mets fans been in this state of emotional need when such a deal went down.
They have suffered at the frugal hands of previous ownership. They have watched small-market teams succeed. They have seen their crosstown rivals own the city with a seemingly annual quest to claim another World Series.
They were told on November that those days were over. Let the record show on January 7th, that was made fact.
With his first mammoth move Steve Cohen, who pried the Mets from the cold, cheap, fingers of the Wilpons, backed up his verbal bravado – (“If I don’t win a World Series in the next three to five years – I’d like to make it sooner — I would consider that slightly disappointing,”) – with a trade that shook the baseball world.
If it wasn’t so gosh darn cold, Mets fans might have taken to the streets or driven to Citi Field and stood outside the box office waiting to buy tickets, or called their favorite Yankees friends and shouted, to paraphrase Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, “How do you like them (big) applies?!”
The deal with the Indians for Lindor also includes pitcher Carlos Carrasco, one of baseball’s feel-good stories. Carrasco beat leukemia in 2019 and returned to win AL Comeback Player of the Year. The 33-year-old bolsters one of the team’s strength – starting pitching. He is 88-73 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 seasons.
Lindor, of course, is the crown jewel of this deal, heck one of the crown shortstops of baseball. According to ESPN he ranks first among shortstops in WAR (28.4) and home runs (138) since he debuted in 2015.
But it’s not just the stats and the youthful age. It’s way Lindor plays, a flash of leather with a smile. He is a platinum-topped or royal blue-topped soon to be orange-topped franchise favorite.
Another 27-year-old by the name of Mookie Betts comes to mind. Lindor and Betts are both God-gifted athletes that make a baseball fan stop what he or she is doing and focus on every swing of every at-bat. When a ball is hit in their direction, the tantalizing possibility of a web gem makes one sit up straighter. Drinks are spilled.
Betts signed a $365-million, 12-year deal with the Los Angeles after the Dodgers acquired him from the Red Sox last February. Lindor, who is a free agent after this season, will be looking for similar numbers which will not make Cohen, the self-made, self-proclaimed Mets fan pause.
“I do believe this is a major-market team and it should have a budget that is commensurate with that,” Cohen said at his November introductory press conference.
It’s vital to note that Cohen, an analytics guy to the core, did not throw money against the wall, hoping something will stick. If Lindor continues the dazzling play he’s shown in five-plus seasons – and there’s no reason he won’t – giving up Andres Gimenez, Amed Rosario, Isaiah Greene and Josh Wolf will be a win-win-win:
It will be good for the Indians, good for baseball, best for the big-market Mets.