The Mets’ quiet offseason got a lot louder Thursday.
In the biggest, boldest move of the nascent Steve Cohen era, the Mets acquired superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and righthander Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland.
They gave up four players: infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, righthanded pitching prospect Josh Wolf and centerfield prospect Isaiah Greene.
The blockbuster trade fills one of the Mets’ most pressing needs (top-to-mid-rotation starter) and significantly improves a so-so position (shortstop). The latter upgrade, Lindor, is a perennial All-Star who immediately registers as perhaps the best player on the team and is their biggest trade acquisition since Johan Santana in 2008.
Lindor, 27, who is nicknamed "Mr. Smile" for his cheery demeanor, was a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, MVP vote-getting face of the franchise during his six seasons in Cleveland. Mets president Sandy Alderson called him "one of the great players in Major League Baseball."
Francisco Lindor's season averages
Based on six MLB seasons. Source: Baseball Reference. See Francisco Lindor's full profile.
"It’s one of the hardest things in baseball to get: a shortstop superstar player in his prime," general manager Jared Porter said. "Charismatic personality and a guy who makes his teammates better. Adding a guy like Carrasco in the same deal just lengthens out the rotation and gives a different look in our rotation from the other two guys in the top half [Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman].
"It’s definitely satisfying. We gave up significant resources to get them, but we’re excited about these two."
These trade talks began "close to the beginning of the offseason," according to Alderson, but didn’t get serious until this week. Early negotiations focused on Lindor. Although the Mets eyed Carrasco throughout, Alderson wasn’t sure Cleveland wanted to trade him in the same deal or at all.
The cost to the Mets in terms of players was not particularly high. Lindor’s presence dramatically lessens the importance of Gimenez and Rosario. Wolf and Greene are several years away from the majors and did not rank in the organization’s top tier of prospects.
"We’ve said to ourselves and we’ve expressed to others that we’re not moving the top handful of our [prospects]," Alderson said. "This deal respects that decision on our part."
Porter added: "The word ‘untouchable’ is dangerous. I think we view five or six guys we’re really trying to stay away from [trading], without naming names. We feel really good about the top five or six players in the farm system."
Carlos Carrasco's season averages
HRs allowed: 23
Based on 11 MLB seasons. Source: Baseball Reference. See Carlos Carrasco's full profile.
The cost to the Mets in terms of dollars is higher — especially if they sign Lindor, scheduled to be a free agent after the 2021 season, to a long-term contract — but still reasonable. Lindor’s salary for this season has not been determined. He is likely to earn more than $20 million via arbitration. Carrasco has two years and $24 million left on his deal, plus a $14 million team option for 2023.
Alderson said he is optimistic about signing Lindor to a contract extension and will broach that to him "in the next few weeks." He noted, though, that the Mets were comfortable giving up the package they did even for just the one guaranteed season of Lindor (plus Carrasco).
"We had one conversation with him and no conversations with his agent. We acquired Francisco because of his present ability and the possibility that he could be a Met long-term," Alderson said. "What we have to offer is a great city, a great baseball city, an organization that we hope is on the rise. There’s a lot of excitement associated with new ownership. I think there are a lot of reasons why we should be optimistic about any follow-up decision that we want to make."
The switch-hitting Lindor endured a relative down year in 2020 but still managed league-average offense, hitting .258 with a .335 OBP and .415 slugging percentage. He has a career .285/.346/.488 slash line. In his most recent three full seasons (2017-19), he averaged 34 homers and 21 steals per year.
Carrasco, who will turn 34 in March, had a 2.91 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 12 starts last season.
Since establishing himself as a full-time major-leaguer in 2014, he has a 3.41 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, more than one strikeout per inning and nearly five strikeouts for each walk — notably better than Stroman by each measure in the same span.
Carrasco missed half of the 2019 season while battling leukemia but returned in time to pitch out of the bullpen that September.
The Mets aren’t done with their offseason work, with Porter identifying up-the-middle spots and pitching as remaining areas of need and Alderson not ruling out surpassing the $210 million luxury-tax threshold. But this trade helps send a message: The Steve Cohen Mets are not the same old Mets.
"Sometimes perception is reality, sometimes it’s not," Alderson said. "What we’re trying to do is change the reality and let the perception follow."
SS Francisco Lindor
RHP Carlos Carrasco
INF Andres Gimenez
SS Amed Rosario
RHP Josh Wolf
CF Isaiah Greene
BIG AT SHORT
Francisco Lindor’s ranking among shortstops since he broke into the majors with Cleveland in 2015:
WAR: 28.7 (1)
HRs: 138 (1)
Extra-base hits: 344 (1)
RBIs: 411 (2)
Runs: 508 (2)
Slugging %: .488 (5)
OPS: .833 (5)
All-Star Games: 4
Gold Gloves: 2
Silver Sluggers: 2
THE CARRASCO FILE
MLB seasons: 11
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