As the Mets under Steve Cohen potentially explore the possibility of signing some of the top free agents such as George Springer, Trevor Bauer, and J.T. Realmuto, there's a soon-to-be-27-year-old superstar who will very likely be on the trade market.
It will be a surprise if Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is one year from free agency, is not dangled by the Indians. And if he is, the Mets need to be the first team on the phone to GM Mike Chernoff.
When it comes to what kind of trade package it might take for the Mets (or another team) to land Lindor, the Mookie Betts trade could give us a general idea.
The trade, which sent Betts from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2020 season, preceded Betts signing a massive extension to stay in LA.
Like Lindor, Betts was a year from free agency when he was dealt.
And like Lindor, Betts is a difference-maker on both sides of the ball.
While comparing the Betts trade to any potential Lindor trade won't be apples to apples due to the blockbuster nature of the Betts deal (it included the Minnesota Twins, David Price's huge contract going to Los Angeles, and cash going from the Red Sox to the Dodgers), a look at the prospects involved is instructive.
In order to land Betts, a perennial MVP candidate, the Dodgers sent OF Alex Verdugo, INF Jeter Downs, and INF Connor Wong to the Red Sox.
Per MLB.com, Verdugo was the Dodgers' top prospect before the 2019 season before making his big league debut, Downs was their No. 5-ranked prospect at the end of the 2019 season, and Wong was their No. 28-ranked prospect.
It's always difficult to compare farm systems of different teams, and it's unclear what exactly the Indians might want in exchange for Lindor.
For example, do they want pitching or position players? Do they want higher-upside prospects who might not be ready for a few seasons or players who might be able to contribute right away? Do they want a combination of prospects and established MLB talent?
If it's just prospects the Indians seek, the Mets should be able to satisfy those needs.
The Mets have three position player prospects (C Francisco Alvarez, INF Ronny Mauricio, and 3B Brett Baty) who are viewed by most outlets as top 100 prospects. Depending on which publication you reference, either Alvarez or Mauricio is their top overall prospect.
As far as pitching prospects go, the Mets have three right-handers -- Matt Allan (above), J.T. Ginn, and Josh Wolf -- who could be potential top-of-the-rotation starters, though Allan probably has the most upside.
Going by the haul the Red Sox got from the Dodgers for Betts, a comparable package from the Mets might be one of Alvarez, Mauricio, Baty, or Allan (depending on which one the Indians value the most), another lower-ranked prospect in New York's top 10 (such as Mark Vientos or Isaiah Greene) and a prospect near the back of their top 30 list.
In the event the Indians want a big league player or two included in the deal in place of a prospect or two, and depending on the kind of big league player(s) they seek, guys like Andres Gimenez, J.D. Davis, and/or Brandon Nimmo could make sense.
It should also be noted that while Lindor is one of the best players in baseball, he is not Betts. So it's fair to believe the Mets (or another team) would be able to get Lindor with a bit of a lesser package than it took the Dodgers to get Betts.
Would it hurt for the Mets to part with one of their three-best prospects and another prospect in their top 10? Yep. But it would be worth it as long as they extended Lindor -- something they could be in unique position to do.
Due to Cohen not being impacted by the losses every other owner dealt with during the 2020 season, the Mets are arguably in the best possible spot when it comes to handing out large contracts this offseason -- whether they're to external free agents or extensions for their own players.
It's not clear what an extension for Lindor might look like, but with him entering his age-27 season, the Mets handing him a megadeal should be less worrisome than giving one to a player on the wrong side of 30 would be.
First things first, though.
Lindor needs to officially be made available and the Mets need to find a fair trade package that pleases the Indians. It will be easier said than done, but the potential reward is huge.