As the Mets began their competitive portion of spring training on Monday against the Miami Marlins, team president Sandy Alderson attempted to put a bow on a hectic offseason while addressing some of the franchise’s largest off-field situations during the exhibition season.
The largest elephant in the room remains the status of contract extension talks between two of the Mets’ biggest stars, shortstop Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto, to which Alderson revealed that negotiations should begin “relatively soon,” despite the different standings of both players.
Conforto is one of the Mets’ top homegrown products over the last decade, rising from the minors to a star in right field since making his debut in 2015.
“We had Conforto for many years. He’s not only become an excellent player but also a part of the leadership group within the clubhouse,” Alderson said via Zoom on Monday morning. “He’s represented the Mets for a long period of time and represented us well. If it’s possible, we’ll make the effort to try and keep Michael with us.”
As for Lindor, he has yet to play a regular-season game in a Mets uniform after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians back in January. Not only is he one of the best shortstops and players in baseball, he is also one of the game’s most recognizable and marketable faces — meaning a contract of over 10 years worth over $300 million could very well be in the cards for the 27-year-old whose contract expires at the end of the 2021 season.
It’s a sizable investment for a player that has yet to step foot in Queens as a member of the Mets.
“We made the trade. That doesn’t mean necessarily we are guaranteed to have him long term but we’re committed to talking about it,” Alderson said. “Not that we’re concerned about [him not playing a regular-season game as a Met] but mindful of it. We’re going to see him today and hopefully, we’ll see him often over the next two, three, four weeks so that comfort factor will take effect and we’ll see where we are.”
While Lindor’s performance over the last six years should provide some comfort to take that chance, Alderson is already liking what he’s been seeing from the newest Mets star at Port St. Lucie.
“There’s a lot more to the overall Lindor package and we’re seeing that demonstrated, even before the games start,” Alderson said. “From that standpoint, we’ve been very happy with what he’s done.
“It’s been all that we anticipated based on conversations and those who know Francisco from his days in Cleveland. Is that a component of value? Probably, yeah. But I think, first and foremost, it’s about performance on the field… Lindor has definitely stood out in his willingness to communicate with players, help other players.”
There is a looming feeling of haste to get Lindor’s deal hammered out considering he gave the organization an Opening Day deadline to negotiate. Once the season starts, contract talks will be tabled, at least according to the shortstop’s guidelines.
“We’ve taken that at face value and are making efforts to see how that can be done,” Alderson said. “If things don’t work out between now and the end of spring training, we’ll figure out a way to hopefully continue a way to communicate.
“We have to honor what Francisco has asked and try to do something by the end of spring training and we will do that. If that happens or not remains to be seen but we’ll try to meet that timetable the best we can.”
Alderson also noted on Monday that “it would be natural” for the Mets to “explore the options” regarding starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard and his expiring contract at the end of 2021.