Francisco Lindor signs extension with Mets: Winners and losers of shortstop’s $341 million deal

The New York Mets reportedly agreed to terms with shortstop Francisco Lindor on a 10-year extension worth $341 million late on Wednesday night, just hours before Lindor’s self-imposed Opening Day deadline was set to pass. The contract is the third-richest in league history, and just the eighth worth more than $300 million. It is the second this spring, joining the deal signed by San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr (14 years, $340 million).

Lindor, who has hit .277/.343/.502 (122 OPS+) over the last three seasons with 78 home runs, 53 stolen bases, and 13.9 Wins Above Replacement (the 10th most in the majors), was scheduled to hit free agency this winter as part of a loaded shortstop class. Instead, he’ll assume the position as the long-term cornerstone of this new era of Mets baseball, even before he’s had the chance to take his first official at-bat as a member of the club. 

Blame it on humanity’s worst angels and modern society’s unnecessarily competitive dynamic, but a compulsory response to any big news event is to wonder who walked away a winner and who a loser. Fortunately, we here at CBS Sports have thought about that question long and hard since the Lindor news broke, and below we’ve provided our list of three winners and three losers, along with the obligatory explanation for each. 

Winner: Francisco Lindor

Every person has to have a code in this cold, crazy world. Part of ours is that a player is a winner whenever they sign one of the richest deals in the sport’s history. 

Lindor is well-deserving of the honor, of course. Combine his excellent on-the-field play with his endearing personality, and you have a highly appealing face-of-the-franchise candidate. He merits being with a club that values and pays him as such. Based on the headline, it appears that the Mets are that club.

Loser: Cleveland

Cleveland’s ownership has an obsession with placing laughable financial restraints on its front office. That much is known throughout the league, and that much limited the franchise from making the most of Lindor’s final seasons in town. It also surely contributed to the trade that saw the Fightin’ Franconas ship Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to New York for four players: infielders Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, right-handed pitching prospect Josh Wolf, and outfield prospect Isaiah Greene.

Said return appeared trifling even when Lindor had a year remaining on his contract. Now? Well, it doesn’t reflect better on Cleveland’s ownership that Lindor was clearly willing and ready to forego free agency for a number he deemed to be appropriate value.

You can perhaps forgive Cleveland’s ownership for not signing Lindor to this exact contract. What you can’t forgive ownership for is not making an earnest effort to extend him earlier in his career, or not ponying up to surround him with more talent in recent years. Instead, the last few seasons for Cleveland have been defined by loss — in terms of veterans and name recognition, and of potential. 

Back in 2016, it was easy to envision Lindor and company returning to the World Series someday. That Cleveland’s competitiveness peaked then is a shame, and is a direct indictment of ownership’s unwillingness to sacrifice for the franchise’s good. 

Winners: the Mets

Obviously the Mets are winners; they get to keep one of the best players in the game in town for the long haul, and they get to reaffirm that the franchise is now under leadership that is willing to seek out and (equally as important) shell out for elite talent. 

Plus, let’s be honest: Steve Cohen would’ve looked awfully silly had this deal failed to get done. The richest owner in the sport tweeting about failed negotiations with his star shortstop, as if he couldn’t just fork over an inconsequential amount of cash a decade from now? This had to get done, for the sake of Cohen and the franchise as a whole.

While Mets fans might feel tormented from the past several days, rocky paths can lead to beautiful places — the Lindor extension is evidence of that.

Losers: the other NL East teams

This one is self-explanatory. 

Winners: Free-agent shortstops

On the one hand, the Mets are no longer a possible landing spot for impending free-agent shortstops like Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Javier Baez. On the other hand, Lindor is no longer an option for the 29 non-Mets teams, which strips them of some negotiating leverage, and his massive contract makes him an appealing data point for comparable performers. 

For as good as Lindor is, the agents for Story or Baez might point out that their clients have actually accumulated more Wins Above Replacement than Lindor has since the start of the 2018 season. Will that lead to either of them getting more than $341 million? Certainly not; based on what we know about how the brain works, the ability to anchor $341 million should nonetheless prove beneficial to those players’ upcoming contracts.

Losers: Conforto, Syndergaard

Lindor wasn’t the only Mets player who was nearing a date with free agency. Both outfielder Michael Conforto and starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard were too, and, unlike Lindor, they remain on schedule to hit the open market. The Mets did reportedly approach each about an extension, but it doesn’t appear that either will sign one, at least not before Opening Day.

Conforto and Syndergaard could be attractive free agents for other teams this winter. Over the last four seasons, Conforto has hit 97 home runs while posting a slash line of .265/.369/.495 (134 OPS+). Syndergaard is recovering from Tommy John surgery, so his exact stock remains up in the air. He’s shown he’s capable of being a frontline pitcher in the past, however, and a return to his pre-2019 form would be well-timed.

It’s to be seen if the Mets can circle back, either in-season or afterward, and lock up Conforto and/or Syndergaard to new deals. (Lord knows Cohen has the financial might to make it happen.) For now, we’re labeling them as “losers,” albeit only on the grounds that they would have been higher priorities for getting paid now without Lindor around. 

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