Fans of the New York Mets have been waiting a decade for a day like this. The Mets are finally the center of the baseball universe and have the World Series firmly in their sights.
New York acquired Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-hander Carlos Carrasco on Thursday in exchange for shortstops Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, minor league right-hander Josh Wolf and minor league outfielder Isaiah Greene. On a Zoom call with reporters, team president Sandy Alderson said the club is hoping to sign Lindor to a multiyear contract, which would secure the 27-year-old's services through the prime of his career.
"There are some players you watch and you appreciate. There are some players you watch and you smile," Alderson said. "Lindor is the kind of player that makes one smile."
Mets fans are certainly smiling, too.
Trades for players of this caliber have been a rarity for the Mets. Sure, they traded for Yoenis Cespedes in 2015, but that was a midseason acquisition to aid a playoff push. The last time they traded for an impact player like this ahead of the season was in 2008 when they brought in Johan Santana from the Minnesota Twins.
But that was a different era in Queens. An era of dysfunction, disappointment and Bernie Madoff.
New owner Steven A. Cohen and Alderson chose rising star Jared Porter as the new general manager because they believe he possesses a combination of baseball smarts and savviness suited for a big-market, big-money team like the Mets.
Porter showed those two traits and more in making this deal with Cleveland. He brought in a franchise cornerstone in Lindor but filled a bigger need with Carrasco and didn't have to deplete a farm system already thin on talent. He set the Mets up for a successful future in the short term and the long term.
The switch-hitting Lindor gives the Mets a strong defensive presence up the middle plus a top bat to anchor an already-strong lineup. Through 777 games, he has slashed .285/.346/.488 with 344 extra-base hits and 138 homers. As MLB analyst Ryan Spaeder pointed out, those numbers are similar to Cal Ripken Jr.'s through 777 games.
His home runs and extra-base hits are the most by any shortstop since 2015, his slugging percentage is third, and his OPS of .833 is ranked fourth, according to ESPN Stats & information (h/t SportsCenter).
He brings speed, he brings power, and he brings defense. The Mets haven't had an infielder like this since David Wright. They now have a core of position players in Lindor, Pete Alonso (26), Jeff McNeil (28), Dominic Smith (25) and Michael Conforto (27) who can grow together.
However, it's Carrasco who may be filling a bigger role in the short term.
The Mets badly needed starting pitching. They were expected to be big players for Trevor Bauer, but the market on the National League Cy Young Award winner has been slow to develop. They can slot Carrasco behind Jacob deGrom and in front of Marcus Stroman, Seth Lugo and lefty David Peterson to create one of the best rotations in the NL East next season.
Noah Syndergaard missed last season to have Tommy John surgery, but there is still a chance he returns next season, as well.
Rosario is a solid infielder, but he was billed as a future Lindor when he was called up from Triple-A as the Mets' top prospect in 2017 and has yet to live up to that potential. The 25-year-old has struggled defensively, and at times, his desire to get better in the infield has been questioned. He's been a free-swinger at the plate since the minor leagues and has taken only 67 walks in 1,564 major league plate appearances.
The Mets were hesitant to part ways with the 22-year-old Gimenez after a breakout rookie season, but Alderson said he was "central" for Cleveland in the deal. It's a good return for Cleveland, which shed $44 million in payroll in the trade, but a better return for the Mets even if they only get one year out of each player.
"If we're willing to acquire this player for one year, then we have to be comfortable with what we're giving up for one year," Alderson said. "As opposed to making the assumption that we're going to put ourselves in a situation where we absolutely have to do something else in order to be comfortable. We did give up a lot in this deal, but we don't feel, in those two players, that we gave up more than what we're getting in return, not only in terms of quality but also years of control.”
If the Mets add Bauer, they could have the most dominant rotation in baseball. If they add free-agent outfielder George Springer, they could move Brandon Nimmo to left field and McNeil back to his natural position at second base to have a staunch defense behind that stacked rotation.
The possibilities are endless, and the best part is that with Cohen, Alderson and Porter at the helm, these are legitimate possibilities. No longer will fans be forced to hear terms like "payroll flexibility." No longer will the Mets be forced to shop in the bargain bin or wait out the market to see who will take cheap deals.
The Mets are now dictating the market.
Porter and Alderson say they like where the team stands as a whole right now, but they are always looking at the potential of adding more. There is still a giant question mark looming over third base. Getting an outfielder to move McNeil to the infield would solve that problem. And another proven arm wouldn't hurt.
By adding Lindor and Carrasco, the Mets went from good to great. If they add another piece like Bauer or Springer, they will go from playoff contenders to pennant contenders.
It's a whole new ballgame in Queens, and it may be a championship ballgame.
"We're trying to change the reality and let the perception follow. We think this is a significant move for us. I'm not sure it should've been unexpected," Alderson said. "We're trying to create a new reality instead of changing a perception, and we hope the perception will follow."