The business of baseball invades. How can it not? Francisco Lindor is a Met because the Indians decided they could not pay him into the future while continuing to afford the rest of a contending roster.
And in the seconds — the seconds — after the Mets obtained Lindor, the mind immediately shifted to if Lindor could be retained long term through the power of Steve Cohen’s wallet.
The cha-ching is never far away. It is a business, after all.
But there really is a game tied to that business. And while the Mets are on the clock from now until the end of spring training to see if they can retain the shortstop, there should be a little while longer — especially among Mets fans — of this:
Francisco Lindor is on your team.
And Cohen owns your team.
So don’t worry so much about if the Mets are going to keep Lindor. The guy who signs the checks now does it with “C-O-H-E-N” not “W-I-L-P-O-N.” That should comfort Mets fans that if the team wants to keep the player long term they will. Whether the contract is done by the end of spring training or after the season, Cohen will come to the party with the largest wallet and likely the most motivation. So, for now, put aside the business of baseball if you root for the team and revel on this:
One of the best players in the world is a Met.
Think about it. If there were a dispersal draft tomorrow of every player in the majors how many picks would elapse before the selection of a 27-year-old switch-hitting shortstop with five tools, durability and a winning off-field personality? Who you got? Mookie Betts and Mike Trout and maybe Trevor Story and/or Fernando Tatis Jr. You can make a list. You won’t get to 10 before Lindor. Heck, you probably won’t get to 10 before you take Lindor and Jacob deGrom, especially if the priority is to win now.
Multiple times in a Zoom conference Monday with reporters, Lindor noted he wants to be “a little piece of the puzzle” that brings a championship to Flushing. Nice humble sentiment. But he is no little piece. He is what you draw up to make a difference.
Lindor gets on the field like no other current middle infielder, playing in 96 percent of the Indians’ regular and postseason games the past five years. He hits well from both sides of the plate, but if he is better it is from the right side, which should help a Mets lineup that tilts left. And he might be the best defensive shortstop in the game coming to a team that has not fielded that position well in recent years. Aptly, the player fits the team like a glove.
Maybe the city too. In his 41-minute introductory press conference, Lindor honored his rep for positivity and enthusiasm. He handled questions in English and Spanish like a hanging curveball — no problem at all. He thanked Cleveland and embraced New York. He leaned heavily on feeling “excited” and “blessed” for this new union.
Lindor’s best moment came in discussing the scourge of the pandemic. Lindor had been outspoken last year against two of his teammates — Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac — for violating protocols. On Monday, he mentioned loving the duo as teammates, but noted that following the protocols were not about just protecting a healthy, well-cared-for professional athlete, but those vulnerable around you. It was just the right tone — which was true about all his responses.
That included that — like with Cleveland — he remains open to discussing a long-term deal, though he explained once spring training ends it is time to focus solely on playing, not money. So he will sign long term before the first pitch of the regular season or not re-engage until afterward.
What do the Mets do? There are those from the Indians who felt the contract loomed last year and might explain his worst offensive year. Or maybe it was just 60 games (he played them all, by the way) and that over 162, Lindor would have been Lindor. Nevertheless, if the Mets believe in the player maybe they remove the contract from his mind by getting it done sooner than later. Or maybe the Mets want to assure Lindor is actually productive and happy here before such an investment. Again, Cohen’s riches assure they can wait and still probably win in the end for this player and — by the way — if he gets offered $350 million at the All-Star break is he really going to refuse and wait until after the year?
But, again, for Mets fans that is business and business should be tabled now for the enjoyment of landing a player of this skill. Twice in his conference Lindor used an expression about what he plans to do. It is good advice for those who will root for him, as well.
“Enjoy the ride.”