Not to get all off-shore casino here, but let’s say we established the over/under on a Francisco Lindor Mets extension at $300 million. Which way are you going?
Taking the over means he not only signs — no sure thing – but that he reaches a level ($300 million or more guaranteed in a contract) that only seven other players have. We will establish the first game of the second half as the deadline. Yeah, Lindor has said he will not negotiate during the season, but there is no rule against it and perhaps after a half season Steve Cohen becomes so enamored he spends huge to keep his star.
I have not talked to an agent or executive who thinks Lindor foregoes free agency after this season unless an extension begins with a $3 (as in $300 million-plus). But how plus? Mookie Betts received $365 million from the Dodgers in a similar situation last year — recently acquired by the team and ready to begin his walk year. Fernando Tatis Jr. just garnered $340 million from the Padres, the most ever by a shortstop and the third largest guarantee ever behind Mike Trout and Betts.
Sandy Alderson has insisted the Mets traded for Lindor, appreciating that it could be a one-year marriage. But Lindor represents the first big move of the Cohen administration. Do they really want to have given up assets, lose Lindor after one season and then risk being equated in any way to the previous ownership for not getting it done financially? Do they want to dive in on another free agent next offseason, such as Carlos Correa or Trevor Story?
Here is a thought to add confusion to which way you would go: The Mets were willing to pay Trevor Bauer $40 million annually for each of the first two seasons of a contract if he opted out at that point. Could the Mets make Lindor the first $40 million-per-year player as a way to pay him through age-34 rather than his late 30s? That would be 2022-28. That would be seven years. That would be $280 million — or less than $300 million. And doing it as a straight extension would mean his $22.3 million 2021 salary holds as what counts toward the payroll for luxury tax purposes this year.
Something to think about as we complete a 10-pack of over/unders with the Mets three weeks from Opening Day:
2. Michael Conforto (over/under $175 million)
The Mets would not go beyond five years for George Springer, who is two years older than Conforto. So would they offer seven years for Conforto? Would Conforto and Scott Boras want eight years since Springer ended up getting six from the Blue Jays? Springer received $25 million on average annually. But Springer has greater consistency and the ability to play center field. Will Conforto/Boras demand the same financial arena or just wait to see if they can get it in free agency after the year? Will the Mets go to the $25 million annual range that other right fielders (Giancarlo Stanton/Bryce Harper) received, albeit on 13-year, $300 million-plus contracts?
3. J.D. Davis (over/under 70 starts at third base)
Will Davis combine a strong bat with adequate enough play at third to hold the position? Will Luis Guillorme work his way into regular play? Or will there be a lot of Kris Bryant/Kyle Seager/Eugenio Suarez rumors come July?
4. Dellin Betances (over/under still a Met on June 15)
Betances has appeared in just 16 games the last two seasons, registered a 7.71 ERA in 15 of them last year and is trying to operate with considerably less fastball than his 2014-18 heyday. The Mets are a win-now team and want to see if the best of Betances and Jeurys Familia can be rediscovered. But since both can be free agents after this season, the Mets could have limited patience and move on if one or both are struggling.
5. Jacob deGrom (over/under a NL Cy Young finish of 2 1-2)
To take the under, you have to bet deGrom will finish first or second. He has come in first, first and third the last three years. Do you take a field that includes the Reds’ Luis Castillo, the Dodgers’ Bauer and Walker Buehler, the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, the Braves’ Max Fried, the Phillies’ Aaron Nola, etc. to accumulate two people to finish ahead of the majors’ best pitcher?
6. Noah Syndergaard (over/under 15 starts)
Who do you like to have a greater impact coming back from Tommy John surgery this year, Syndergaard or Luis Severino?
7. Dom Smith (over/under 75 starts in left field)
There are no signs a last-second agreement is coming between MLB and the Players Association to add a universal DH. So with Pete Alonso at first, the Mets begin the year playing the bats of Smith in left and Brandon Nimmo in center, hoping the gloves do not undo them.
8. Francisco Alvarez (over/under No. 20 on Baseball America’s season-ending prospect list)
Even after dealing Jarred Kelenic and Simeon Woods Richardson during Brodie Van Wagenen’s term, the Mets have a group of high-end prospects. The 19-year-old Alvarez, a catcher, might have the highest ceiling. But Ronny Mauricio and three picks from Van Wagenen’s two seasons – Matt Allan, Brett Baty and Paul Crow-Armstrong – are also intriguing.
When Cohen took over, he said he wanted to emulate the Dodgers, which meant not just huge payrolls, but a steady stream of difference-making youngsters coming through the system.
9. Pete Alonso (over/under 35 homers)
As sophomore jinx-y as last season was, Alonso still hit 16 homers in a 60-game season, which over 162 would have translated to 43 homers. Will a deader ball, or Smith playing at first, cut into his 2021 homer total?
10. Mets (over/under 91 wins)
They haven’t won that often since 2006 and have only won the NL East once since then (2015). The division projects to be competitive. On paper, the Mets have as much talent as any NL team aside from the Dodgers, especially if Syndergaard and Seth Lugo return successfully from surgery.
But they have been talented the past two years and underperformed, in part because of shabby defense and baserunning – two areas that remain a concern. Will the addition of Lindor – perhaps a $300 million-plus man – prove the catalyst to unseat the three-time NL East champion Braves?