Francisco Lindor trade grades: Mets land superstar face of franchise; Cleveland cries poor

Cleveland traded franchise icon Francisco Lindor on Thursday, and absolutely zero people in baseball were surprised. 

Kind of a sad commentary, isn’t it? Lindor can become a free agent after the 2021 season, and there was very little chance the Cleveland ownership group would agree to spend the type of money it would take to sign their superstar shortstop to a long-term deal. So he was definitely going to be dealt at some point. 

The question was this: Where would he go? We got our answer Thursday. Lindor is the newest member of the New York Mets. 

That didn’t make the breakup any easier. Consider this, from Cleveland club president Chris Antonetti. 

Here’s how the trade breaks down. 

Mets get SS Francisco Lindor, SP Carlos Carrasco

Need to know: There was never any real doubt that the Mets, under new owner Steve Cohen, would make a splashy move this offseason. The question was what they would do, and Lindor always made sense. He’s a bonafide superstar, both on and off the field. And if you’re trying to rebrand your new ballclub, why not start with a guy whose nickname is Mr. Smile?

Lindor is more than just a smile and a nickname, though. He’s on the short list of best players in the majors; his 2020 season wasn’t his finest, but it’s hard to judge anyone by what happened in that pandemic-interrupted year. He’s been an All-Star quality MVP candidate from the moment he arrived in the bigs, and he’s still only 27 years old (his birthday was in November). In his past three full seasons (2017-19), Lindor averaged 34 homers, 21 stolen bases, 110 runs scored, 85 RBIs, a 122 OPS+ and a 6.2 bWAR, all while playing excellent defense at a very important position. 

The question with Lindor and the Mets, of course, is this: Will they sign him to a long-term contract extension? He’s set to become a free agent after the 2021 season, which is why Cleveland made him available in the first place. Mets fans will be upset if a deal is not reached; one thing Cohen has plenty of is money, after all. 

And even though Carrasco will be inevitably overshadowed because Lindor is in the deal, you can bet the Mets are excited to have him on board, too. Carrasco, who turns 34 in March, had a 2.91 ERA/3.59 FIP for Cleveland last year in a dozen starts and was a big reason the club made the postseason. That’s a nice arm to help round out a rotation headed by Jacob deGrom. He’s under contract for $12 million each of the next two seasons, with a club option at $14 million for 2023 (with a $3 million buyout). 

Mets grade: A

Cleveland gets SS Ahmed Rosario, SS Andrés Giménez, P Josh Wolf and OF Isaiah Greene

Need to know: Look, here’s the thing: Everyone in baseball knew that Cleveland was going to trade Lindor at some point either this offseason or during the season, which put the Cleveland front office in a difficult position. It’s also important to note, though, that it was a position created by an ownership group that steadfastly refuses to spend the money necessary to keep its elite talent.

It’s not that Cleveland couldn’t pay Lindor, it’s that the Dolan family refused to. With this deal, the payroll for 2021 is down around the $50 million mark, which is incredibly tiny. The Red Sox were in a similar situation when they traded away Mookie Betts — a superstar on the brink of free agency — last offseason, and the return they got back wasn’t exactly stellar, either. Look at the impact Betts made on the Dodgers. 

Amed Rosario was the Mets’ starter at shortstop the past three years and just turned 25. He’s still developing, but Rosario hadn’t developed into the player the Mets hoped he would be, which is why they’re moving him in the deal for Lindor. He has a .302 on-base percentage and 91 OPS+ in 403 games, and can also play second base. Giménez made his big league debut at 21 years old in 2020, playing 49 games, stealing eight bases, posting a .333 on-base percentage and a 102 OPS+. He was a regular on Top 100 prospect lists in 2018, 2019 and 2020 (but dropped significantly from 2019 to 2020). 

Wolf was the Mets’ second-round choice in 2019 and Greene was the club’s second-round pick in 2020. Wolf struck out 12 in his eight rookie-league innings in 2019. Both have big upsides, of course, but with the minor leagues shut down in 2020, neither played actual games against other opponents last year. 

Cleveland grade: C-

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