Long-rumored to be trading its star shortstop, Cleveland finally dealt Francisco Lindor. The 27-year-old star—along with veteran righty Carlos Carrasco—is heading to the Mets, who go from the fringe of the playoff race to instant World Series contenders. Let's grade the deal for both sides.
Mets acquire: SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco
Cleveland acquires: SS Amed Rosario, 2B/SS Andrés Giménez, RHP Josh Wolf, OF Isaiah Greene
Grading New York's Side of the Deal
The Mets are the kings of New York this offseason. Francisco Lindor is one of the best shortstops in baseball and one of the game's most charismatic superstars. He belongs in the Big Apple, with his magnetic smile stretching the width of an FDR Drive billboard. This is the player Steve Cohen promised to get when he bought the Mets and became baseball's richest owner.
There are clear parallels here with the Mookie Betts trade the Dodgers made nearly 11 months ago, and we all saw how that move turned out for Los Angeles. Like Betts in 2020, Lindor is entering his age-27 season with one year left on his contract. Surely, the Mets are going to do whatever they can to extend Lindor long-term before he reaches free agency in November. The players New York gave up—not one, but two controllable young shortstops—indicate Cohen is going to throw his financial clout behind Lindor to be their shortstop for years to come and not just 2021. The Mets have the best shortstop in New York since Derek Jeter. There's no way they'll give him up.
On top of that, the Mets get righthander Carlos Carrasco to complete their exceptional rotation. Affectionately called Cookie, he is universally adored throughout the sport and consistently has been one of the game's better starting pitchers. Since his breakout 2014 campaign, Carrasco's 129 ERA+ ranks 10th among starters with at least 150 career starts. He was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2019 and endured three months of treatment before returning to the mound as a reliever that September. In 2020, he proved he still could pitch at a high level, posting a 2.91 ERA across 12 starts. At least until Noah Syndergaard recovers from the Tommy John surgery he had in late March, Carrasco will slot in as the Mets' No. 2 starter behind ace Jacob deGrom.
Unlike Lindor, Carrasco, 34, is under contract through at least the end of 2022, with a team option for 2023, at an $11.75 million average annual value. That gives the Mets roughly $24 million before hitting the $210 million luxury tax threshold, per Spotrac. Meaning, without getting penalized, they theoretically can still add another marquee free agent, such as George Springer, DJ LeMahieu or Trevor Bauer.
Another benefit of this trade: New York can move Jeff McNeil back to second base, his primary position, and park J.D. Davis at third base. This, in turn, also makes Dom Smith their everyday left fielder, since as of now there is no National League DH for Pete Alonso to play.
All of this, together, makes the Mets one of the top contenders in the National League, even if they are still not the favorites for the NL East—the Braves still have a strong case for that title. And unlike other Mets trades in recent years—such as the dreadful Robinson Canó deal—this move does not hamstring them for the future.
Grading Cleveland's Side of the Deal
This is a cold, heartless trade for Cleveland, sending two fan favorites to the Mets and essentially giving up on 2021 (and probably a few seasons after that, too). But from a pure business perspective, this is not a bad deal. We already knew Cleveland was not going to keep Lindor beyond the 2021 season because it didn't want to pay him what he's worth. So, instead of finishing in third place, letting him walk in free agency and getting nothing but draft-pick compensation, Cleveland improved its chances of contending again after a few down years.
Through this emotionless lens, shrewdly including Carrasco made this trade better. Cleveland cut its payroll, and presumably, giving up a solid No. 2 starter netted them at least one additional player. Getting Amed Rosario is fine. He's a decent MLB shortstop with the potential to be above average. The real gem here is Andrés Giménez, who was the Mets' No. 2 prospect last season. Just 22, Giménez is a defensive whiz with strong instincts and speed. His power upside is limited but he has impressive bat control that should make him a good contact hitter. Josh Wolf, a right-handed pitching prospect, has a live arm and a fastball that sits in the mid 90s and hits 97 mph. With the way Cleveland has developed pitchers over the last decade, there's no reason to bet against the 20-year-old Wolf.
Ultimately we cannot ignore the emotional cost that comes with Cleveland's trading the face of its franchise and the lovable Cookie. This one surely hurts Clevelanders. But hey, at least they have the Browns!