NEW YORK — When Steve Cohen purchased the Mets in November, his promises — both spoken and unspoken — were manifold. With Cohen leading, the baseball world expected the Mets to enter a new era of excess, playing at the top of the free-agent and trade markets as they looked to build a consistent winner.
That vision is rapidly coming true. In by far the boldest stroke of the Cohen era to date, New York acquired All-Star shortstop
Mets get: SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco
Indians get: INF Andrés Giménez, INF Amed Rosario, RHP Josh Wolf, OF Isaiah Greene
Projected Mets lineup for 2021
Jeff McNeil LF
Francisco Lindor SS
Michael Conforto RF
Dom Smith DH*
Pete Alonso 1B
Brandon Nimmo CF
J.D. Davis 3B
James McCann C
Luis Guillorme 2B
*if there is a DH in the National League in 2021
Lindor, 27, is a four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and, as Mets president Sandy Alderson put it, “really one of the great players in Major League Baseball.” Lindor is coming off a down 2020, during which he hit .258 with eight home runs in a 60-game regular season, but he averaged 34 homers a year with a .278 batting average from 2017-19.
More than that, Lindor is one of the game’s most charismatic young players, with marketing potential extending well beyond the foul lines. Although Lindor can become a free agent after the season, the Mets intend to at least attempt to sign him to an extension.
“It’s one of the hardest things in baseball to get — a shortstop, superstar player in his prime, a charismatic personality, a guy who makes his teammates better,” Mets general manager Jared Porter said.
“There are some players, many players, that you watch and you appreciate,” Alderson added. “There are other players that you watch and you smile. … I think Lindor’s the kind of player that makes one smile.”
The same could be said about Carrasco, 33, who became the 2020 American League Comeback Player of the Year after returning from a life-threatening chronic myeloid leukemia diagnosis. Carrasco started 12 games for Cleveland and posted a 2.91 ERA, improving to 88-73 with a 3.77 ERA in 11 seasons. The best of those came in 2017, when he finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
“This is a big opportunity for me to play for the New York Mets now,” Carrasco said on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM. “Me and my family are really happy.”
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) January 7, 2021
Together, Lindor and Carrasco transform the dynamics of the Mets’ roster. In the former, they landed one of the most dynamic shortstops in the game. In the latter, they acquired another proven starter to gel with Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman atop the rotation.
Those additions, however, came at a cost. Gone to Cleveland are Rosario and Giménez, two of the highest-rated prospects the Mets have developed over the past decade. So are Wolf and Greene, who were the club’s Nos. 9 and 10 prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline.
New York once believed it had a budding superstar in Rosario, but he struggled offensively and defensively for much of his first four years in the Majors, before losing his starting job to Giménez in 2020. Alderson noted that Giménez, who is highly regarded for both his glove and hit tools, was “one of the most popular asks” by opposing general managers this winter.
“So much is going through my mind at the moment but it’s time to embrace my new journey!” Rosario wrote on Twitter. “To the New York Mets Organization, thank you for taking a chance with a 16 yr old kid from Santo Domingo and giving me the opportunity to do what I love. To all Mets fans, you will always have a place in my heart.”
That group — Mets fans — is an energized bunch, having seen Cohen bring on Alderson, Porter, reliever Trevor May and catcher James McCann over the past two months, all while making no secret of his desire to be even more aggressive. Despite a cold offseason marketplace, the Mets spent the early offseason constantly linked to George Springer, Trevor Bauer, Nolan Arenado and other top players.
New York finally landed one in Lindor, one of the game’s most talented players. He increases the ceiling of an offense that ranked 13th in MLB in runs per game last season (4.77), while also giving the Mets the sort of steady, up-the-middle defense they have lacked for most of the past decade.
Lindor is arbitration-eligible after making $17.5 million last season, but his salary could change if New York and he agree on an extension. Alderson said they intend to approach him about one in the coming weeks, much as Cleveland unsuccessfully tried to do for years. But the Mets can flex a sort of financial muscle that the Tribe couldn’t, potentially presenting Lindor with the type of package that would entice him to stay.
“I think we do have optimism,” Alderson said. “I think what we have to offer is a great city, a great baseball city, an organization that we hope is on the rise. There’s a lot of excitement associated with new ownership. I think there are a lot of reasons why we should be optimistic about any follow-up decision that we want to make.”
Carrasco is under team control for three more seasons, with the next two rated at $12 million and a 2023 team option worth $14 million. He fills an even more immediate roster need than Lindor, stabilizing a rotation that ranked 26th in the Majors in ERA last season (5.37).
And still, the Mets could add more pieces. Springer and Bauer remain free agents, as do several other prominent starters, relievers and position players. Even with Lindor and Carrasco in house, New York stands more than $30 million shy of Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold.
Nothing is out of bounds now for a team that backed up its early offseason talk with one of the most significant trades in franchise history. The Mets intend to continue proving over the coming months that such boldness is their new company policy.
“What we’re trying to do is change the reality and let the perception follow,” Alderson said. “We think this is a significant move for us. I don’t know that it should have been unexpected.”