While Mets fans were picking up the pieces from the fallout of Steve Cohen’s failed bid to buy the club, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Friday that Brodie Van Wagenen and Co. were in serious pursuit of Cleveland Indians star shortstop Francisco Lindor during the Winter Meetings.
The reported bounty the Mets had to give up for Lindor was a high one — which is likely why they didn’t continue their pursuit.
Rosenthal noted the Mets would have had to part ways with starting shortstop Amed Rosario and two top prospects.
At surface level, that isn’t an overly steep price for Lindor considering he is one of the top shortstops in baseball.
The 26-year-old is a four-time All-Star averaging 34 home runs and 85 RBI with a .278/.342/.514 slash line over the past three seasons.
It wouldn’t have been so simple of a trade just to swap Rosario-plus with Lindor, though.
Lindor is under team control for the next two seasons, owed $17.5 million in 2020 before his final year of arbitration where he could make anywhere between $23 million and $25 million. That’s a $40 million-plus price tag over the next two seasons only for Lindor to hit the free-agent market as one of MLB’s most prized targets.
This is where a sore spot comes up for Mets fans everywhere. Lindor’s next contract could range anywhere between $200 million and $300 million, which is far too rich for the Wilpons’ blood given their history of frugality. But while this doesn’t necessarily let them off the hook, it’s worth noting that the Mets’ 2020 payroll is at $183 million, per Fangraphs. That’s the highest payroll in franchise history and a $58 million jump from last season.
Rosario, on the other hand, is making just $583,500 in 2020 before three additional years of team control via arbitration.
Last season saw Rosario turn a corner in his professional development, which could lay the foundation for his entrance into the upper tier of MLB shortstops sooner rather than later.
Rosario had more hits and triples than Lindor, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, and Gleyber Torres last season. His offensive WAR of 3.6 was also higher than Baez’s and just 0.1 lower than Lindor’s.
The 23-year-old managed to put together such a promising campaign despite struggling through much of the first half in which he slashed .242/.284/.404 in 68 games.
In his final 89 games of 2019 from Jun. 17 to Sept. 29, he slashed .322/.353/.453 with a .806 OPS.
Even if the Mets decided to send Rosario to Cleveland, they would have run the risk of completely depleting their organizational depth chart at the position.
Two of the Mets’ top five prospects are shortstops in Ronny Mauricio and Andres Gimenez, meaning at least one of them would have also been on their way to the Indians.
That would have put plenty of pressure for the last man standing to succeed in New York if Lindor hypothetically opted to go elsewhere in free agency in 2021.