Usually, it’s the New York Mets who are getting killed after making a blockbuster deal.
See: The Jarred Kelenic trade. And several others.
But the Steve Cohen Era is different.
This time, it was the Mets fleecing the Cleveland Indians and landing superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor by simply exploiting baseball’s newest market inefficiency: spending money and trying to win.
The Mets sent shockwaves through the sport on Thursday, acquiring Lindor and reliable veteran starter Carlos Carrasco in a massive trade that sent Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene to the Indians.
“They stole him. Total steal. It’s ridiculous. People should be fired in Cleveland for doing that trade,” a rival executive said shortly after the blockbuster deal became official.
At 27, Lindor is in his prime. He’s a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove award winner. Since 2017, he ranks third in the majors with 258 extra-base hits. He’s a switch-hitter who plays plus defense at a premium position. Scouts rave about his makeup and leadership skills.
As the executive put it, “He’s one of the top-three or four players in the game.”
The next move for Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson will be signing Lindor to a long-term deal, keeping him in Queens for perhaps the next decade, with a deal presumably in the $30 million-range annually. The hope is that he can have a similar impact to Mookie Betts with the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
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In Carrasco, 33, the Mets added a No. 3-caliber starter to a rotation that includes ace Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson, with Noah Syndergaard slated to return from Tommy John surgery in June. The Mets still need more pitching, having already added reliever Trevor May as well.
The executive felt Cleveland should’ve received emerging slugger Dom Smith and Peterson in addition to Gimenez, a promising middle infielder who consistently displayed good baseball instincts after being called up last season. Rosario shows tools, but has been inconsistent with the Mets. The pair could start up the middle for the Indians. Wolf, a 20-year-old righty, and Greene, a 19-year-old outfielder, were both second-round draft picks from the Brodie Van Wagenen regime. They’ve both showed promise, but are still in the early stages of development.
The Indians continue to be in cost-cutting mode. They also traded ace Trevor Bauer to the Cincinnati Reds at the deadline in 2019. Now, they’ve dealt another cornerstone in Lindor, as well as Carrasco, who the franchise admirably rallied around after his cancer diagnosis.
Cleveland leadership has been able to consistently develop young pitching, so it’s possible the Indians could rebuild faster than expected. But dealing the beloved Lindor to a big-market team means taking a massive PR hit. And Cleveland’s Opening Day payroll could be around $35 million, according to The Athletic — or less than Gerrit Cole makes by himself for the New York Yankees ($36 million). Another win for payroll flexibility. Another loss for a good fanbase.
When Cohen — and his $14.6 billion net worth, as per Forbes’ daily tracker — purchased the Mets for $2.42 billion, he said he wanted to win a championship within 3-5 years. Big spending and superstar acquisitions were promised. It took awhile, but Cohen and Alderson have delivered on that promise.
And they’re not done.
George Springer, believed to be their No. 1 free-agent target, would be a significant upgrade in centerfield. And Bauer tweeted the “eyes-open emjoi” upon seeing the news that his ex-teammate was headed to Citi Field – the possibility of a 1-2 scenario with deGrom a very enticing one.
Liam Hendricks would give the team an upgrade at closer given Edwin Diaz’s up-and-down tenure. To really compete with the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, among others, in the National League, the Mets still need more arms. But they’ve got the capital to pull it off.
Their steal of Francisco Lindor was quite a start.