It’s no secret the New York Mets are under new ownership. Billionaire hedge fund guru Steve Cohen bought the team from the Wilpons this past offseason, who frustrated Mets fans for a very long time. Whether it was an unwillingness to spend, an incompetency in the money they did spend, or just a general disconnect between the front office and the product on the field, loyal Mets fans gladly moved on from them and finally got the owner they deserved.
There was a great excitement around Cohen’s first offseason, which all in all went well. One of the biggest moves Cohen, GM Sandy Alderson, and the Mets made was obviously trading a significant package for All Start shortstop Francisco Lindor (which also included a great pitcher in Carlos Carrasco). But, there was one caveat with this move, and that is Lindor is in the final year of his contract and is expecting big money in an extension.
Negotiations started over a week ago, but have stalled as Lindor’s Opening Day, first pitch deadline quickly approaches. The Mets offered 10 years, $325 million as a best and final offer, but Lindor wants 12 years, $385 million. Neither side has budged yet.
For some obvious and some not-so-obvious, this extension is the most important signing the Mets front office will be taking part in over the course of the next decade. Here’s why:
FRANSISCO LINDOR IS A STUD
Simple enough. He’s 26 years old right now, he has a .285 career batting average, .833 OPS, 27.9 WAR, has a ton of playoff experience, and, as intangible as it seems, has the personality of a New York superstar that will fit perfectly on a championship roster.
Lindor can be the face of the franchise for years to come, and locking him up through his prime ensures the Mets can be offensively and defensively sound while they look to compete in the 3-5 year championship window Cohen set.
But…with that window comes expectations. From the fans, and from the players. Which brings me to my next point.
ARE THE METS ACTUALLY BIG SPENDERS?
When Cohen became owner, many fans expected a huge offseason that entailed signing George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, or Trevor Bauer. Instead, they signed catcher James McCann and traded for Lindor/Carrasco as the biggest moves.
I think most fans, while still wanting a larger splash, settled happily for the McCann signing and trade. They didn’t get the big signing they wanted, but the Mets were in on a lot of the guys originally discussed and made no hesitation in actually offering big money. It just didn’t work out for a plethora of reasons (see Blue Jays overpaying Springer or Bauer being a troll).
But because those signings didn’t pan out, there is an expectation a Francisco Lindor extension gets done. They gave up two future shortstops for him in Rosario and Jimenez, and if they don’t get the extension then you have to deal with finding your future shortstop in free agency when Lindor, and a large amount of other top-notch shortstops, hit the market this offseason.
The problem with that is, if you were going to just sign a shortstop in free agency, why did you make the trade? Sure, you can argue the Mets are in a championship window now, but you have to compete for a title THIS season with Lindor in order for it to look like a good deal.
If it doesn’t, the first year of the Cohen ownership feels a lot like empty promises, and it makes you question if/when the Mets front office plans to spend the money they feel like they now have. It felt like the roster was going to be fun toy for Cohen to play with, but the more he sets price ceilings the more it starts to feel like a business.
That makes you question…if the Mets aren’t going to go all-in on the guy they clearly traded for and planned on extending, when will they do it?
Now is where it gets tricky though. What is the precedent the ownership wants to set with their money? That, while offering significant contracts to many players, they will put their foot down on an amount? Or that they will get players whatever it takes because they can afford it?
Agents, like fans, certainly thought the Mets might be desperate to reward Queens with a high-caliber, high-salaried roster. Instead, the Mets have strategically and smartly built a solid roster without overspending. And they’ve made it clear by walking on Springer and not considering Realmuto they won’t be taken advantage of just because of Cohen’s net worth.
By letting Lindor head into free agency, they are setting the precedent that they will absolutely put their foot down. Sure, they’ll spend, but they WILL NOT overpay.
And that is so important going into Cohen’s future because when all the amazing shortstops hit the market after this season, nobody is going to walk into a meeting with the Mets thinking they’ll be getting Mike Trout or Mookie Betts money. They’ll have realistic expectations, and the Mets won’t be crippled financially by the luxury tax.
So with all that said, the lingering effects of this Lindor extension starts on the field, trickles over to public perception, and finds itself all the way into the front office for at least the next decade. It’ll be very interesting to see which way Steve Cohen and the Mets organization decide to go.