The celebrations are still ongoing after the New York Mets acquired star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians on Thursday. But New York has always been a “what have you done for me lately?” kind of town — and the overarching question looming over general manager Jared Porter is, “what’s next?”
Lindor and Carrasco fill huge organizational needs in Queens — the former potentially bolstering down the starting shortstop position if the two parties can agree on a long-term deal while the latter provides an upper-rotation arm behind Jacob deGrom.
The Mets still might not be done, however. Team president Sandy Alderson himself said on Thursday that the Mets were a lot closer to being one player away from a legitimate World Series contender than they were at the start of the offseason. General manager Jared Porter added that the organization will continue to “strengthen our players up the middle.”
Considering they signed James McCann this offseason at catcher, added Lindor at shortstop to join Jeff McNeil at second base, the only other fielding position up the middle to address is in center field.
Enter George Springer.
The marquee free agent has long been linked with the Mets — along with the Toronto Blue Jays — this offseason. He’s by far the best player available at his position on the market and is reportedly looking for over $150 million in his next deal.
Considering the Mets have to sign Lindor to a lengthy extension — his contract expires at the end of the 2021 season — extend Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard, and potentially find more pitching help both in the starting rotation and bullpen, some doubt has emerged that the Mets could abandon a pursuit of Springer.
That’s if they want to stay under Major League Baseball’s $210 million luxury tax threshold, which Porter admitted is not an end-all-be-all figure.
“No, I think it’s kind of a barometer and something you always measure yourself against and see what makes sense and when it makes sense, and obviously [owner Steve Cohen] is a big part of that too,” Porter said. “But no, I don’t think it’s something we have as a line in the sand on or anything.”
The Mets’ general manager also didn’t rule out abandoning a Springer pursuit, either, as he appeared on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio with Nick Alberga and Linda Cohn.
“We’ll see,” Porter said. “George, congratulations to him. He put himself in a great position. He’s a free agent coming off back-to-back really strong seasons with the Astros. He has a championship pedigree, does a lot of things really well. He controls the strike zone, he hits for power, he plays another premium position in center field.
“We’ll see what happens. We’ll probably take a little bit of a step back, re-evaluate the market, see who kind of fits best for us… We’re still going to be opportunistic and creative in all areas of the market and we’ll see where it leads us.”
Major League Baseball’s free-agent market is slowly progressing at a snail’s pace. Not one of the big names, like Springer, starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, and catcher JT Realmuto, have signed yet and their respective sagas can continue toward the end of the month, at least.
As teams around the league lick their wounds from the financial fallout of COVID-19 — MLB and its teams lost a combined $3 billion — the Mets are in a position of power since Cohen, the richest owner in baseball, took over the team in November.
If the Mets come to the conclusion that they still want the 31-year-old All-Star in their ranks after taking that step back, it would be hard not to view them as the favorites to nab his signature.