After shortstop frenzy, Francisco Lindor still has record contract
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It was around this time last year that Francisco Lindor signed up for an additional decade with the Mets, bypassing the chance to be a member of what was probably the best class of free-agent shortstops in baseball history, a group that featured Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story.
And now that everyone except Story has landed with a new team, it is Lindor who stands above the rest. His $341 million extension remains the largest contract ever awarded to a shortstop.
Lindor was pleased to push the salary ceiling higher last season, he said, so that others could benefit as well. But he doesn’t care about having the record.
"I wasn’t saying I wanted to be the highest-paid ever and stay the highest-paid," he said Saturday. "No, no. That would be extremely selfish."
Entering the offseason, the greatest threats to Lindor’s mark seemed to be Correa and Seager.
Seager came closest, getting $325 million over 10 years in a pre-lockout deal with the Rangers. But Correa settled early Saturday morning with the Twins for three years and $105 million, with opt-out clauses after each of the first two seasons, so he can give it another try as soon as next winter.
Correa did edge Lindor in average annual value, $35 million to $34.1 million.
Whatever financial commitment Story draws from a club, it is not expected to rival Lindor and Seager.
Semien ended up with Rangers, too, at seven years and $175 million. He’ll play second base, combining with Seager for a half-billion-dollar middle infield.
Baez landed a six-year, $140 million deal from the Tigers, though Lindor had hoped Baez would remain with the Mets after playing for them late last season.
"He got what he deserved," Lindor said. "He said he was happy, so I’m happy for him and his family. And the Mets have a different plan. I’m a New York Met. Whatever plan they have, I’m right there with them."
Lindor said he was glad not to partake in the free-agent shortstop goings-on of recent months. That is easy for him to say, of course, given his 341 million reasons to be happy to be here. But it is especially true considering he almost certainly would have received a smaller contract after his career-worst season last year.
"I’m glad I wasn’t fighting for a job," he said. "I’m where I’m supposed to be."
Team owner Steve Cohen and president Sandy Alderson were in the stands for the Mets’ first Grapefruit League game, a 6-2 win against the Nationals.
They were treated to first-inning home runs from Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith and Nick Plummer off righthander Josiah Gray.
Smith finished 2-for-3 with an RBI triple against Will Harris. He also had two long balls versus Max Scherzer in a recent scrimmage.
"This is probably the best I’ve felt in any spring training I’ve ever been in," he said.
Smith credits the offseason work he did, specifically watching video of his swing in October — the first time he had ever started that early. He also watched David Ortiz, Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera to note how they stay more balanced when hitting, a skill he wants to adopt.
"People think you hit with your hands, but you actually hit with your legs," Smith said. "The best hitters are always on balance. I’ve been trying to work on my balance."
You hear it every year, and with the Mets’ exhibition schedule underway it is time for a reminder: The statistics from these games don’t really matter.
What does, then, in the eyes of Buck Showalter?
"Health," the manager said. "Just be ready. If you told me I could have one thing, I’d have our players available on Opening Day."
Showalter on Guillorme, a utility infielder: "I reminded him how important he is on our club. We don’t have someone who can do what he does. You talk about someone who is very valuable. He’s a regular irregular. He’s a guy that’s going to play a big role." . . .The Mets sent lefthander Thomas Szapucki to minor-league camp, trimming the spring-training roster to 58. They have 18 days to narrow it to 26 . . . Seven of the Mets’ 15 exhibition games are at night — unusual for spring training — but if were up to Showalter, it would be even more. He said, "I’d do them all that way."