Essentially, the Mets had two reasons for remaining measured in their pursuit of free agents this winter. Long-term, the front office wanted to remain flexible, so that it would have the freedom to remain aggressive in future offseasons. Short-term, the Mets wanted to keep money in reserve to pursue extensions with players already here.
As team president Sandy Alderson put it, “At some point, even Steve Cohen runs out of money.”
So how might the Mets continue spending this spring? Although Alderson did not completely discount the possibility of offering extensions to pre-arbitration players like Pete Alonso or Jeff McNeil, he identified three impending free agents as his most likely targets:
Francisco Lindor, SS
The case for: Lindor is a star, arguably a top 10 player in baseball. More than that, he possesses the type of charisma that the Mets can market -- a “face of the franchise” magnetism that only comes around so often. Off the field, extending Lindor would represent the most significant sign yet that Cohen plans to spend his billions liberally. On the field, Lindor plays a premium defensive position at a high level and is just 27 years old. It’s reasonable to expect he still has many All-Star-caliber seasons ahead of him.
The case against: Cost, mostly. Even conservative estimates have Lindor at least approaching a $300 million deal, given the recent mega-contracts around the league for Mookie Betts (12 years, $365 million), Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 years, $340 million) and others. Even for the best players, deals of that nature carry significant risk, particularly on the back end. If Lindor signs even a 10-year contract, he will be 37 when it expires. To date, the largest contract the Mets have ever offered was their $138 million deal for David Wright in 2012. To more than double that for a player who has never played a game for them would be both a significant commitment and a significant risk -- with, of course, significant upside.