PHILADELPHIA — Hours before the Mets’ first game of their new era, team president Sandy Alderson hinted again at an obvious inevitability: The Mets have a lot of good players, and they eventually probably won’t keep them all.
Last week, they signed shortstop Francisco Lindor to a 10-year, $341 million contract extension. Last month, they engaged Michael Conforto in negotiations that were "brief but cordial," Alderson said. And asked specifically about potential new deals for Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, new owner Steve Cohen said they’ve "had conversations with everybody," then suggested the urgency wasn’t as great as it was with Lindor (who had given the team an Opening Day deadline).
"We've got a great core, and a number of players that make up that core," Alderson said, reiterating a sentiment he expressed early in spring training. "In an ideal situation, you'd love to retain them all. I think the fact is that at some point down the line we'll have to make some choices.
"A lot of things will go into that, but realistically we want to look for ways that we can hold on to as many of those players as we can. Our fans love homegrown players, most fans do, most organizations, and they're special."
Those comments came during Cohen and Alderson’s start-of-the-season video news conference Monday afternoon, part offseason review and part season preview — and part victory lap after getting Lindor’s deal done.
Cohen said that during those negotiations, he was confident a deal would get done because of the "type of bid I put on the table," 10 years and $325 million. Lindor wanted two years and $60 million more. They met in the middle.
"I told you I’m all in," Cohen said, "and this should leave no doubt."
Lindor and Cohen have become "good friends" who "text all the time," Cohen said. They have had several dinners — not just that highly publicized chicken parm get-together toward the end of spring training — including a Lindor visit to the Cohen household, where he got along great with Cohen’s wife, Alex Cohen, whose family is from the same part of Puerto Rico as Lindor.
Getting to know Lindor the person made it easier to give Lindor the ballplayer all that money, Cohen said.
"Francisco is a special guy. And deserved a special contract," he said. "I don’t think it’s a good idea in any situation to say, ‘I’m going to do it no matter what.’ I think you have to be disciplined. Whether I’m buying a piece of art, whether I’m doing a business deal, there’s a limit to what you want to do. I don’t think you want to pay just anything for a piece of art. I tend to be disciplined in that regard and I think I was disciplined here."
Noting that he won’t spend like a "drunken sailor," as he did during his introductory news conference in November, Cohen said again that he isn’t afraid to hand out huge contracts when it makes sense.
"We’re going to be significant players for free agents down the road," he said, "and we’re going to act like a major-market club."
That is relevant to players like Conforto and Syndergaard, who are scheduled to be free agents after this season, and deGrom, who can opt out of his contract after 2022.
Cohen said he plans to "sit down" with Conforto’s agent, Scott Boras, "at some point."
"I do believe there's room to continue those conversations," Alderson said.
Cohen added: "We like Michael. He's been a terrific Met and we'll see if we can get it done. This is a big moment for him too. He may want to explore his free agency. So we'll see what happens."
Next time, Cohen said, he wouldn’t mind if things came together quicker and earlier than they did with Lindor. He agreed to terms late Wednesday night, just before the calendar flipped to Opening Day on Thursday.
"I’m pretty transparent, pretty open," Cohen said. "I try to put my best foot forward here and try to get something done. I think as time goes by, agents will know what my style is and hopefully we can avoid these last-minute fire drills."
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