Mets Deal for Lindor, Carrasco Puts Cohen’s Rebuild Well Underway

Barry M. Bloom
·4 min read

When Steve Cohen purchased the New York Mets last year for $2.42 billion, he promised to spend money and remake a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1986.

Wednesday’s deal to acquire shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco for a combined $31.5 million this season is just part of that process.

“This deal has been in the works for a long time,” club president Sandy Alderson said during a Zoom call with the media. “Starting Monday, we got more specific, as did Cleveland.”

Adding All-Star Lindor at $19.5 million along with $12 million for Carrasco, who battled leukemia to win the A.L. Comeback Player of the Year, brings the Mets’ player payroll to about $162 million for a full 162-game season. That’s the third highest in Major League Baseball, behind the defending World Series champion Dodgers at $189.6 million, and the cross-borough Yankees at $166.8 million.

The luxury tax threshold this year is $210 million.

Under Cohen’s watch, the Mets had previously signed free agent catcher James McCann for four years, $40.6 million, including $8.15 million for this season. McCann’s deal is the longest contract for a free agent thus far this offseason. Nearly 300 players are still unsigned, including the top crust quartet of starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, outfielder George Springer, infielder D.J. LeMahieu and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Bauer, Springer and LeMahieu have at one time or another this offseason been linked to the Mets.

Asked if there was any appetite for adding another big-time contract, Alderson deadpanned: “We’re always hungry.”

“The market will dictate some of our decisions in the next few weeks,” Alderson said. “We’re trying to create a new reality here.”

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring camps in Florida and Arizona Feb. 16. It should be noted that the market was very slow two years ago with such big-name free agents as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado signing big contracts with new teams after spring training began. In addition, Nolan Arenado and Mike Trout signed long-term extensions with their current clubs well into the spring.

The question for the Mets is whether they will try to lock up Lindor, a free agent after the coming season, for the long term, or let him play the season out. A .285 hitter and an American League All-Star in four of his first six seasons, Lindor is projected to be seeking an eight-year deal in the range of $225 million.

“We’ve had one conversation with him and none with his agent,” Alderson said. “We acquired him with the idea that he’ll be a Met for a long time. We have him for a year. We hope he’ll be fantastic in 2021. We feel comfortable where it is now. We’ll see how it goes.”

Lindor, 27, has to weigh the issue of this year’s collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement. The current five-year deal expires on Dec. 1, and there’s a chance that if a new deal is not agreed to by then, the owners could lock out the players for the 2022 season.

Under those circumstances, Lindor may not want to be in the open market.

For the Indians, it’s a continued devaluing of the franchise under owners Paul and Larry Dolan, who year after year continue to shed their top players, such as former Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Corey Kluber. At the trade deadline of last year’s COVID-abbreviated 60-game season, they traded starter Mike Clevinger to San Diego.

At present, the Indians have committed an MLB-low $23 million in player payroll. They haven’t won the World Series since 1948, the longest such streak in MLB, and after this season will drop the Indians nickname in deference to Native Americans.

From the Mets, the Indians obtained infielders Ahmed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, plus prospects Josh Wolfe and Isaiah Greene. In exchange for shedding the $31.5 million in contracts, Cleveland inherited Rosario at $2.2 million and Gimenez at the minimum of $575,000 if he plays in the big leagues.

“Outside forces for Cleveland sped things up after the [Christmas] break,” Alderson said. “This is a significant move for us.”

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