SAN DIEGO — It was a fleeting moment, easy to miss amid the pregame hoopla, but before the Mets played the Padres on Thursday, the San Diego chapter of the highly exclusive Guys With $300 Million Contracts Club held a meeting with their special guest.
Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and Padres third baseman Manny Machado stood huddled on the field, chatting about who knows what — anything they want. Combining for nearly $1 billion of mega-deals, they can relate to each other in ways almost nobody else can.
Machado, in fact, even provided counsel for Lindor as he negotiated his $341 million contract extension with the Mets during spring training.
"He’s been doing it for a long time, longer than me," Lindor said. "He set the bar. He set the bar with how he played, Gold Gloves and then free agency. So we definitely talked through when I was going through my process. I congratulated him when he went through his process and he said the same thing to me."
Lindor and Machado are both "Florida boys," as the former put it. Lindor went to high school in the Orlando area, Machado is from greater Miami. They played against each other back then — Machado is a year older — and with each other on All-Star teams as major-leaguers.
On Friday, during one of the tenser moments of an eventual Mets loss, with the Mets down by one and Lindor on third and nobody out, he and Machado had a playful moment. Machado jokingly tried to push him off the base. Lindor laughed.
"I’m a happy person," Lindor said. "I enjoy every time I’m on the field."
Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million contract — the first free-agent deal to each that number — with the Padres ahead of the 2019 season.
"I respect him," Lindor said. "He’s a good player. I wish him nothing but the best."
Lindor hasn’t known Tatis, 22, for as long, but they are linked because of their contracts.
When Tatis signed a 14-year, $340 million extension in February, it set a record for shortstops. A month-plus later, on the eve of the Lindor-imposed deadline to agree to terms, the Mets convinced him to sign by offering $1 million more.
"The numbers are very similar," Lindor said, "but they’re two different contracts."
Tatis’ has an average annual value of $24.3 million. Lindor’s is $34.1 million. Tatis was several years away from free agency. Lindor was six months from free agency.
Although the comparisons are natural because of money and status as franchise shortstops, Lindor said he and Tatis are "completely different players" who "just play the same position."
He does like watching Tatis up close, though, like most anyone else in baseball.
"He can do things that I can’t do and vice versa," Lindor said. "When we were on the bases, I was just saying [to] Tatis, he’s more on the wild side than me. I’m a little bit more calm when it comes to running the bases. He’s a very exciting player to watch, and he’s more daring. It’s fun to watch him. It’s fun to see him do his things."
The San Diego series came right as Lindor started to get hot after a two-month funk to open the season. Heading into play Saturday, he had a seven-game hitting streak during which he was batting .400 with a .419 OBP and .600 slugging percentage. That included two of the Mets’ three hits in a loss Friday.
Manager Luis Rojas attributed that improved performance to Lindor using "the big part of the field" — the gaps — and no longer trying to pull every pitch.
"I’m very encouraged. I feel very good. I finally have some success on my side," said Lindor, who upped his season slash line to .217/.308/.321. "Hopefully I continue this to help the team win, get some Ws on this road trip and when we get home, maybe I don’t get booed."
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