The Mets have come to terms on a ten-year, $341M contract extension with star shortstop Francisco Lindor, covering the 2022-31 seasons. Lindor will be paid a $21M singing bonus, followed by flat $32M salaries in each year of the deal. $5M of the annual salaries will be deferred, paid annually from 2032-41, for a total of $50M in deferrals. The deal also contains a fifteen-team no-trade clause without any opt-out provisions.
The extension is a monumental development, both for the Mets and for the sport as a whole. New York acquired the 27-year-old Lindor, one of the sport’s brightest stars, in an offseason trade with the Indians. Now they’ll ensure he spends the bulk of his career in Queens.
Lindor was the eighth overall draft pick by Cleveland back in 2011. He immediately became one of the game’s top prospects and moved quickly through the minors for a high school draftee, reaching the big leagues by June 2015. Lindor burst onto the scene that year with a .313/.353/.482 slash line as the Indians’ everyday shortstop, earning a runner-up finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
That sensational debut set the stage for a run of four consecutive star-level seasons. Between 2016-19, Lindor hit .284/.346/.495 (118 wRC+) with 118 home runs and 81 stolen bases. That’s quality offensive production from any player, but it’s particularly remarkable coming from a shortstop widely regarded as one of the game’s premier defenders. Lindor’s two-way production earned him an All-Star berth and a top 15 finish in AL MVP voting in each of those seasons.
That production did drop off a bit during the abbreviated 2020 season. Lindor played in all sixty games for Cleveland but hit a career-worst .258/.335/.415 (102 wRC+). It seems that average showing is something of a small sample anomaly, though. Lindor kept his strikeout rate at its customary 15.4% range (well better than the league average of 23.4%) while drawing walks in a career-best 9.0% of his plate appearances. His power production took a slight step back, but Lindor’s 89.9 MPH average exit velocity remained solid.
Clearly, the Mets aren’t concerned about Lindor’s slight offensive downturn. They parted with four well-regarded young players (infielders Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez and prospects Isaiah Greene and Josh Wolf) to acquire him and starter Carlos Carrasco from the Indians in January. They’re following that up with one of the largest contracts in MLB history.
Working out an extension with Lindor has been the Mets’ hope since they acquired him, but it seemed just a few hours ago the star infielder was headed for the free agent market. Lindor had rather definitively stated he wouldn’t negotiate an extension during the regular season, leaving the parties with dwindling time to work out a deal before tomorrow’s season opener. The Mets originally offered a ten-year, $325M pact, while Lindor came back with a twelve-year, $385M counterproposal. With the clock ticking, both sides budged a bit from their original asks, although Lindor ultimately relented on the deal’s length and more significantly than the Mets did on the money.
That’s not to say he fared poorly. His deal checks in as the third-largest contract in MLB history in terms of total guarantee. Hardly coincidentally, it tops Fernando Tatís Jr.’s recent $340M extension with the Padres by the narrowest of margins. The deferred money in Lindor’s deal keeps the contract’s actual value a bit below Tatís’, since none of the latter’s money is deferred. Nevertheless, Lindor picks up a symbolic $1M more than one of the game’s other top shortstops. By average annual value, meanwhile, Lindor’s $34.1M comes in sixth all-time. It is also easily the biggest financial outlay in Mets’ history.
Keeping one of the sport’s best players and most charismatic people for the next decade is certainly a huge development for the Mets on its own. But the Lindor deal also represents something of a symbolic leap for the organization’s future under new owner Steve Cohen. Under the previous ownership group, the Mets’ payrolls were closer to average than the top-of-the-market range one would expect from a team in New York City. The offseason sale of the franchise to Cohen, MLB’s richest owner, brought hope for Mets’ fans of a massive uptick in spending.
New York had an active winter, but they didn’t make a true splash at the top of free agency, to the consternation of some observers. By extending Lindor, the Mets keep one of the top players in next winter’s class off the market. The 2021-22 free agent shortstop class has drawn plenty of attention. It remains loaded, with Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Javier Báez all slated for the open market. Lindor was perhaps the face of that group, though, and he carried as much or greater earning power than his peers.
Because Lindor’s extension begins in 2022, the Mets’ books for the upcoming season are unaffected. The two sides had already agreed to a $22.3M salary for this season to avoid his final potential trip through arbitration; Lindor will play out the year on that deal. Pushing the extension off a season also keeps the Mets’ competitive balance tax number for 2021 at the same level- around $194M, in the estimation of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That leaves New York with about $16M of breathing room if they wish to stay below the $210M tax threshold this year.
Lindor’s deal will count for $34.1M (a deal’s average annual value is measured for CBT purposes) against the luxury ledger every year from 2022-31, assuming the luxury tax system is still in place under the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement. The deal pushes the Mets’ actual payroll number in 2022 to over $127M, per Cot’s, with a projected luxury tax number of $135M. New York will need to shell out another significant outlay (albeit nothing approaching the Lindor range) if they wish to keep star outfielder Michael Conforto from hitting free agency over the offseason. The Mets and Conforto have talked about an extension this spring and could continue those conversations into the season.
Regardless of what decisions Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson make in the coming months, they’ll be able to build around their new franchise shortstop. In the waning moments before their self-imposed extension deadline, the Mets and Lindor got the deal done.