Francisco Lindor aiming high with ‘new money’ Mets asking price

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WASHINGTON — Francisco Lindor, of course, should ask the Mets for whatever sort of financial package he deems fair, and the wide gap between what he wants and what the Mets want to give him does not reflect poorly on him at all.

Therefore, consider this an assessment rather than any sort of moral rendering:

$385 million over 12 years, Lindor’s counter to the Mets’ 10-year, $325-million proposal, does not feel like the sort of package a player with his résumé gets a year before free agency. It sounds more like what a player with Lindor’s accomplishments gets if he actually takes the free-agency plunge and nails it.

So if the 27-year-old doesn’t want to at least move closer to the “great offer” that the Mets extended him, as per the tweeted words of the team’s owner (and Lindor’s recent dinner partner) Steve Cohen, then the two sides should table these talks and get to know each other better through a full season with the comfort that, if it goes as well as hoped, no one can outbid Cohen next offseason.

“I really have no concerns, zero concerns with the way he carries himself on a daily basis,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said Tuesday of Lindor, in response to a question about the possibility of Lindor not signing the extension by his self-imposed start-of-season deadline. “He’s pretty solid. He’s consistent with his demeanor.”

Exhibit A occurred minutes later, as Lindor, sporting a pair of canary-yellow kicks (presumably from his personal collection with New Balance), appeared his usual high-energy, jubilant self as the Mets worked out at Nationals Park in preparation for Thursday night’s opener against the Nationals.

Lindor’s teammate Pete Alonso proclaimed, “I hope they pay him $400 million,” and hey, if Lindor puts up a Most Valuable Player-caliber 2021, excels in the playoffs and captures the undying loyalty of Mets fans, then he’ll have the Mets right where he wants them, with other suitors (Yankees? Dodgers?) circling in free agency, and very well might break that ceiling. This assumes the sport doesn’t grind to a halt due to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

At this moment, though, Lindor is asking to be paid a record amount of “new money” — commitments made to players already under contract with their current team. The Dodgers paid Mookie Betts ($365 million over 12 years) in 2020 to buy him out of imminent free agency and the Angels gave Mike Trout ($360 million over 10 years) in 2019 to keep him away from the open market after the ’20 season. These are the two highest such sums ever granted in the sport.

Betts, new to the Dodgers as Lindor is to the Mets, had compiled 41.8 wins above replacement (as per Baseball-Reference.com) at the time of his agreement and had excelled in big-market Boston in the ultra-competitive American League East. Trout, a homegrown Angel (always a simpler call because of how well the two sides know each other), had tallied 64.6 WAR. Lindor, coming over from the small-market Indians, stands at 28.8 WAR.

The Mets’ offer to Lindor falls short of the $340 million that the Padres recently guaranteed to Fernando Tatis Jr., setting the record for a shortstop package — though at $32.5 million annually (without knowing the breakdown of deferred money), it dwarfs the $24.3 million annual average value in Tatis’ 14-year deal and tops the $30 million yearly that the Padres gave Manny Machado, a shortstop-turned-third baseman, two years ago with their 10-year, $300 million pact. If Lindor wants to top Tatis, that’s understandable. Maybe some common ground can be found in passing Tatis while falling short of Betts and Trout.

Cohen — who has taken this matter public with his tweets, a questionable decision — wrote on Tuesday, “Lindor is a heckuva player and a great guy. I hope he decides to sign.” If he doesn’t, Cohen will face sizable heat from the many Mets fans who want to see superstars signed to ginormous contracts as a symbol of this new era.

Perhaps, given his vast personal wealth, that pressure should motivate Cohen to push closer to Lindor’s idea and get this done. If he doesn’t, though, it’ll be hard to blame him, intellectually, for not wanting to set a record here.

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