Imagine you had carried a money sack, full of tens, out of your bank last Halloween and wagered all of it on the Mets not signing any of the top four free agents this winter.
Given the odds against you, you’d be boasting of GameStop-level winnings right now.
So here the Mets are, having improved their team considerably without putting a dent in their long-term economic flexibility, and I say they should just go the distance on this Dodgers-type thinking.
Specifically, while they must honor their public vow to engage shiniest new acquisition Francisco Lindor on a long-term extension, they should feel just fine — perhaps even fortunate — if common ground can’t be found.
Because committing to someone you barely know remains the biggest risk in team sports. And because being owned by the richest man in baseball means you need not plunge into anything today when you’ll still be able to afford it tomorrow.
Remember the fervor when Steve Cohen gained approval to buy the Mets on Oct. 30, two days before free agency began? For The Post’s predictions, I forecasted the Mets to sign George Springer and James McCann as well as welcome back Marcus Stroman on the qualifying offer. The feedback I received from Mets fans veered considerably toward, “That’s all?!” It turned out I, like those Mets fans, expected too much. Springer accepted a much larger offer from the Blue Jays, Trevor Bauer took a slightly smaller offer from the Dodgers, the Mets opted for McCann rather than wait out J.T. Realmuto and they didn’t spend much time on DJ LeMahieu.
They nevertheless have put together a compelling, competitive ballclub, adding depth free agents Albert Almora, Aaron Loup, Jose Martinez, Trevor May, Sam McWilliams, Kevin Pillar and Jonathan Villar and picking up Carlos Carrasco along with Lindor in the trade with Cleveland.
Last Friday, Mets acting general manager Zack Scott said the team would engage its two walk-year All-Stars, Lindor and Michael Conforto, in extension talks when they arrive at spring training, which they’ll do in the coming days.
If they can sign Conforto, a homegrown Met and Scott Boras client, to something reasonable — how about $130 million over six years, from 2022 through 2027? — then they should do so. They know him and he them. He is a low-maintenance, affable metronome of production.
Lindor, naturally, is different. While he earned a reputation as an excellent teammate with the Indians, in addition to establishing himself as an elite, ebullient player, you’d like to get a better firsthand feel for a person before handing over $300 million or so. Moreover, it’s at the least suboptimal that Lindor’s most recent season, the COVID-shortened 2020, marked his worst at the big-league level.
Allowing Lindor to play through on his walk year would enable both sides to develop a greater comfort for each other, or not, before taking the plunge. If it works out as well as hoped, then Lindor can rest assured that his new boss will take care of him with a ginormous contract. If it doesn’t? Cohen can shop at the free-agent shortstop aisle, which, as of now, will feature other studs such as Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and Trevor Story as well as Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons, both of whom just resolved their 2020-21 free agencies with one-year contracts.
If Lindor wants to re-up at high dollars for a shorter term, something like $200 million over five years with opt-outs, then the Mets should sign off on that. Why should they buy the whole cow, though, when they can purchase the milk at a reasonable rate for one year?
The Dodgers landed Mookie Betts from the Red Sox in his walk year and wound up extending him ($365 million over 12 years) before he played for them. Yet that occurred under the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, which also led to Betts being a Dodgers employee for over five months, during a quite adverse period, before Opening Day, strengthening the bond. So far, it looks brilliant.
Short of such unique circumstances, the Mets might look most brilliant to wait on Lindor. To use Cohen’s riches not as a catapult, but as a safety net.