As has quickly become commonplace around Major League Baseball, the New York Mets have suddenly been thrust into the speculation and rumor mill that comes with the opening of free agency and the subsequent trade market.
That comes with the territory of getting a new owner with the financial punch that $14.6 billionaire Steve Cohen provides.
Once the 64-year-old closes his deal to purchase the Mets for $2.475 billion, it’s off to the open market, which he himself alluded to on Twitter Sunday when giving fans a timeline of when his takeover would officially be complete.
In a market where teams are looking to shed salary because of the pandemic, the Mets are in the rare position to clean up as an organization poised to spend big to improve — whether that comes in the form of signing All-Star catcher JT Realmuto, a top-end starter like Trevor Bauer, or imperative bullpen help in the form of Liam Hendriks or Brad Hand.
But as Cohen completed his negotiations with the Mets and began his wait for MLB ownership’s — and later NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s — approval, the Queens club was immediately linked to a potential trade involving 26-year-old superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is believed to be on the block by the Cleveland Indians.
Lindor is in the final year of his contract and has made it known that the likelihood of returning to Cleveland is slim. Coming off a down, pandemic-shortened 2020 season, his value couldn’t be much lower considering his premier talent.
It’s the perfect time to buy for the Mets, who certainly seem to have the necessary pieces needed to construct a return to pique Cleveland’s interest.
But who would it take to get a hypothetical deal over the finish line? That’s a bit more complicated.
Because Lindor has just one year left on his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency, the Mets — or any potential trade suitor — will be hesitant to put together an exorbitant return for Cleveland. Giving up cornerstone prospects or established MLB talent would be worthless if Lindor were to sign with a different team next winter.
That being said, a trade partner would have to part with high-upside talent to get a star like Lindor in return.
Here are just a few of the Mets’ potential trade assets:
JD Davis (3B/LF, MLB)
Dom Smith (1B/LF, MLB)
Brandon Nimmo (OF, MLB)
Amed Rosario (SS, MLB)
Andres Gimenez (SS, MLB)
Ronny Mauricio (SS, Single-A)
Matt Allan (P, Single-A)
JT Ginn (P, Gulf Coast League)
Josh Wolf (P, Gulf Coast League)
Considering Lindor would bolster down the shortstop position in Queens for a decade if he were to re-sign following a hypothetical trade, the need for Rosario, Gimenez, and Mauricio suddenly evaporate. All three were, at one point, the organization’s top prospect and still have high ceilings despite Rosario’s struggles in 2020.
Gimenez, however, has shown an ability to provide gold-glove caliber defense at second, third, and shortstop during his debut stint with the Mets over the summer — creating even more promise after he slashed .266/.341/.394 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 42 games.
Such a promising start could see the Mets try to hang on to the 22-year-old, as they might attempt to do with Dominic Smith.
After a rocky start to his MLB career, Smith turned a corner in 2020, putting up elite offensive numbers to pair with his leadership qualities and tireless work ethic — developing to an important producer for the Mets.
Working on his defense in left field to become a dependable option, Smith also benefitted from the DH coming to the National League in 2020, getting reps at first as well. In 50 games he slashed .316/.377/.616 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI.
Taking away that sort of skillset and a true glue guy in the clubhouse would certainly have an impact on morale in the dugout.
Any other name from the list above would be a bit more expendable, and one plenty of Mets fans would be willing to give up more than Gimenez or Smith.
Based off the blockbuster deal last season between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that sent Mookie Betts out west, a three-piece deal should be enough to get Lindor.
One of JD Davis or Brandon Nimmo could be offered to alleviate the log jam in the corner outfield spots. It would also allow more opportunities for the Mets to fit Smith’s bat in the lineup if the DH is not apart of the NL in 2021.
On top of that, the Mets should give Cleveland a choice between Rosario and Mauricio along with Ginn or Wolf to sweeten the pot. If Lindor was secured on a long-term deal, that haul would obviously change to include the likes of Allan — the Mets’ top pitching prospect — or Alvarez (No. 2 prospect), or third baseman Brett Baty (No. 3 prospect).
amNewYork Metro’s projection
Mets get: Francisco Lindor
Indians get: JD Davis, Ronny Mauricio, JT Ginn