NEW YORK — On January 7, 2021, Cleveland shipped its shortstop franchise to the big city, sending Francisco Lindor — once a first-round pick, top prospect, heart and soul — to the Mets. The trade also took Carlos Carrasco, at the time the longest-serving player on the team, to New York. In turn, Cleveland received shortstops from Amed Rosario and Andres Jimenez, as well as prospects Josh Wolf and Isaya Green.
This weekend, for the first time, Lindor and Carrasco will face their former team. (Carrasco is scheduled to start the Mets’ home opener Friday night.) Rosario and Jimenez will occupy lockers in the Visitors Club.
Writers Tim Britton (Mets) and Zack Meisel (Guardians) connected to ask each other questions about old friends of each team and to revisit the trade that changed the course of both organizations.
Did he talk about us before? Does he miss Cleveland? No, on a serious note, Lindor always seemed to go big on the market. In Cleveland, even a player of his caliber can fly under the radar at times. How do you think he handled the New York lights?
He’s grown into it. That first season in 2021 was tough. His first two months with the Mets were among the worst of his career, he missed more than another month due to injury during which the team fell apart, and he was open throughout about how much he was booed at home. (It’s hard to pinpoint the bottom point: his fight in the dugout tunnel with Jeff McNeil who tried to mock him or when he, Javier Baez, and other Mets players gave thumbs up to their fans after base hits.)
In the overtime season since then, the Mets and Lindor have gotten more comfortable with each other. Lindor took a message from manager Buck Showalter that the fanbase wanted him to succeed; He just has to live up to his expectations. He did so throughout 2022, having one of the best seasons of his career. It got him some goodwill with an odd start to the season, with a low average but a bunch of extra base hits and RBIs.
The risk with these huge contracts is always the back end of the deal, when a player is in the twilight of his career. Lindor was signed during his 37 season. Do the Mets feel better or worse about the contract — especially the back of it — now, compared to when he signed?
The Mets signed Lindor for $341 million in the spring of 2021. Since then, Corey Seeger, Marcus Simien, Carlos Correa, Paez, Trevor Storey, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson and Correa (again) have all landed The open market – and none had a greater guarantee than Lindor. Looking at the truth serum, the Mets brass will probably admit to being amazed about it. (I don’t need truth serum: I’m amazed at that.)
Still, Lindor’s 10-year deal during his 37-year-old season seems almost outlandish compared to the 11-year deals that sealed Turner and Bogart during their 40-year-old seasons. New York’s deal with Lindor, in theory at least, captures more of his start and fewer years of outright decline. Some of that theory has been toned down a bit in practice: Lindor 2021 didn’t feel like high season, and this year it didn’t, until now. But his stellar defense, which was a revelation for a series that displayed some truly awful glove work around the diamond prior to his arrival, makes you think he’ll still be a useful player once this decline begins. It’s the cost of doing business for superstars developed elsewhere, and one the Mets have to pay to compete right now.
A Cleveland darling, Carrasco was the man who agreed to a pair of below-market contract extensions and was inspired while battling leukemia. From a distance, it appears as though his tenure at the Mets has been marked by injuries. Is there anything else to note about his time in New York?
Carrasco’s tenure with the Mets was even more disappointing, given the consistent level of success he had in Cleveland. He missed the first four months of the 2021 season and then underperformed upon his return. He was a solid starter for the majority of last season, even if he was also one of the players the Mets didn’t want to start in the postseason. After the Mets chose the club’s last option on his contract, Carrasco lost more time and was hit hard when he threw the ball. At a time when spinning has been a real hindrance to the Mets’ NL East hopes, they could really use a solid run from Carrasco — like the kind he had this past August.
To his credit, even through injuries and hardships, he remained optimistic and accountable, and was often an enjoyable presence at the club. This has not changed.
Did Cleveland ever talk about Lindor? do you miss him Does anyone blame him for the trade? And to what extent did Jimenez’s appearance moderate those feelings?
It always felt as though both sides were blowing smoke, in a sense. During the last year or two of Lindor’s tenure in Cleveland, there was a lot of stand-up. You don’t hear many players talk openly about negotiations or what they feel they deserve. And you never Overhearing the Cleveland front office discussing negotiations on the record. However, both sides routinely expressed their view of the situation (or at least, the view they wanted to present publicly).
There was an inevitability to all of this. After all, that organization had recently begun circulating deals worth $100 million, and Lindor seemed destined for a big market the moment the two sides failed to find common ground for a long-term deal after the 2016 season.
While Jimenez has had some struggles and Rosario has been a polarizing figure among Cleveland fans, they helped ease the trade by delivering the production that led the club to its sudden eruption last season.
After signing his nine-figure extension, Giménez is no longer at the same starting point this season that he was last season. Is this cause for concern?
There are elements to his game that don’t hold back — his Gold Glove-winning defense, his speed, and uncanny propensity to get hit by pitches — that give him reasonably high ground as a player. He thrived last year despite his lack of solid contact and plate discipline, but that input has faltered this season. There have been times when he seems to be guessing at the plate, which is never good. Giménez ranks in the bottom 1% of the league in both strikeout speed and hit rate, and the bottom 4% in chase rate. That’s a lot of poor connectivity in out-of-area stadiums, and a tough way to live. It’s troubling, but there are more pressing matters for the Guardians, in part because the man who finished sixth in MLS MVP voting last season deserves some benefit of the doubt.
While Rosario didn’t live up to the promise of his blockbuster days, he settled in to be a useful player every single day. Are the rangers happy with this result? Is there any chance he will be with Cleveland after this season?
In general, the organization is satisfied with what Rosario has provided. He was consistently an average league hitter year after year, even if there were wild fluctuations in his output from month to month. He and Jose Ramirez have defined the team’s style in terms of running and effort.
He’ll enter free agency in six months at the top of a shortened season, the antithesis of the group that landed nearly $1 billion in contracts last winter. On Thursday, the Guardians had Gabriel Arias at first base, Jimenez at second, Rosario at shortstop and Brian Rocchio at third base (plus Tyler Freeman off the bench). All five players are shortest heart stops. One of these young substitutes will replace Rosario next season.
But which one? With Rosario and Giménez sitting in the middle of the standings and the team competing ahead of schedule last season, the Guardians haven’t learned much about Arias or Freeman, and now Rocchio has reached the prep for the major league. There is a crowd. Trade can help in this regard. It’s not Rosario’s fault, but when he leaves, they’ll have a bunch of unproven candidates vying for a chance.
How do Josh Wolfe and Isaiah Greene look like prospects these days?
You won’t find either man in any potential rankings at this time. Wolfe has driving and injury problems. He’s been sidelined with right elbow soreness, which isn’t a diagnosis a pitcher wants to hear. Greene can draw a lot of walks and steal a lot of bases, but he hasn’t hit much and his strike rate is through the roof this season, to go along with a .158/.286/.303 slant in the High A.
At the time of the trade, Green had not yet made his professional debut. Wolf scored eight runs in the rookie ball. Both were lottery tickets.
Will the Mets/Guardians still share the same trade today?
Maisel: I think so. These teams talked through dozens of iterations before settling on six players involved in the final deal. Cleveland might have preferred some adjustments to a comeback, but the club knew they weren’t keeping Lindor for the long term. Getting to Giménez was a triumph. And remember, when these teams negotiated, they were doing so with huge information gaps in the exploration. There was no minor league season in 2020. Assessing major league performance that year was just more of an imprecise science than usual. It’s certainly not a perfect trade-off from a Cleveland perspective, but all things considered, as long as Jimenez makes it clear that his early-season funk is temporary, the Guardians will do it again. The most compelling debate is whether, in hindsight, Cleveland would trade Lindor a year early. (probably.)
Breton: I think so too. It is astonishing to think if New York had not entered Lindor in January of that year. The Mets wanted a superstar, and he was the only one available. Had they waited, would they have tried to trade for Turner in July 2021? Were they going to spend that much on Seger or Korea? Would Lindor have ended up at Queens anyway, via a mid-season trade or a free agent signing?
It’s tempting for diehard Mets fans to look at Giménez’s output in 2022 and wonder what if. They could have won six players and spent $300 million on another player! The Mets certainly didn’t think Giménez could post a season quite like this, let alone so soon. But it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Jimenez absorbed all his struggles in 2021 and still got a good shot every day the following season for a New York team that was under pressure to compete. And expectations in the deal, Wolf & Green, will no longer bite the Mets.
The Mets may regret the size of the extension: Their initial “final offer” was $325 million, more in line with what Lindor’s peers received in subsequent free agency. But an extra $16 million over 10 years doesn’t quite change the build of owner Steve Cohen’s team these days.
(Top photo: Bebeto Matthews/The Associated Press)
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