Lindor among Mets to reach deals (source)

January 16th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Mets gained significant payroll clarity on Friday, agreeing to a combined $54.7 million worth of one-year deals to avoid salary arbitration with eight players. According to sources, those included a $22.3 million pact with Francisco Lindor and a $12.2 million deal with Michael Conforto, who can use their negotiations as jumping-off points for potential extension talks later this offseason.

Only one arbitration-eligible Mets player remains unsigned: third baseman , who exchanged salary figures with the team and is likely to go to hearing, according to a source. Davis would be the third Mets player to do so in the last half-decade but just the fourth in the past 28 years.

Friday was the deadline for teams to exchange salary figures on new one-year contracts for players with between three (sometimes two) and six years of Major League service time. Teams and players frequently use the deadline as an impetus to sign a new deal. If the two sides cannot agree, the final step in the process is to have an independent arbiter choose either the team’s or the player’s suggested salary.

Davis aside, the Mets now have a clearer picture of their budget as they continue to pursue free agents, including (but not limited to) outfielder George Springer and reliever Brad Hand. As calculated for luxury-tax purposes, New York’s estimated payroll is now just north of $180 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That leaves the Mets a little less than $30 million to spend before they bump up against the tax.

The full list of players who agreed to deals on Friday is as follows (the Mets have not confirmed monetary figures, which are according to sources):

Francisco Lindor, $22.3 million
Third time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $17.5 million
Shortstop ’s agreement is the fourth-highest for an arbitration-eligible player in Major League history, trailing only Mookie Betts ($27 million in 2020), Nolan Arenado ($26 million in ’19) and Josh Donaldson ($23 million in ’18). That’s not surprising for Lindor, a four-time All-Star and the centerpiece of the Mets’ recent six-player deal with the Indians. Of more significance is whether the Mets will be able to sign Lindor to a long-term extension before Opening Day.

Michael Conforto, $12.2 million
Third time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $8 million
Like Lindor, outfielder is a prime candidate for a contract extension, with one year remaining until free agency. Both he and the Mets have indicated a desire to talk, though their ability to complete a deal could depend upon how willing the Mets are to going beyond MLB’s luxury-tax threshold. Conforto is coming off a career year in a short season, with a .322 batting average and .927 OPS.

Edwin Díaz, $7 million
Second time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $5.1 million
Despite some issues early in the summer, reliever recovered to give the Mets a performance more in line with what they expected when they traded for him in December 2018. Over his final 12 appearances, Díaz was dominant, striking out 22 batters over 12 2/3 innings while allowing merely one earned run. The most significant question surrounding Díaz is whether the Mets will commit to him as their full-time closer or use him instead as part of a committee.

Brandon Nimmo, $4.7 million
Second time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $2.175 million
As of this moment, is the Mets’ starting center fielder, though that could change if the team acquires Springer, Jackie Bradley Jr. or another defensive upgrade. The Mets would prefer to use Nimmo in left field but are comfortable with either situation. What’s important for the Mets is keeping Nimmo’s bat in their lineup, where he has developed into an excellent leadoff option. In 2020, Nimmo batted .280 with eight home runs and a .404 on-base percentage.

Seth Lugo, $2.925 million
Second time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $2 million
The Mets have not publicly committed to as a reliever, making it possible he returns to the rotation following a checkered cameo there in 2020. Where Lugo fits best remains a matter of debate, even if he has proven without a doubt that he can be a dominant reliever, producing back-to-back 100-strikeout seasons with a 2.68 ERA from 2018-19. If Díaz is not the full-time closer, Lugo would become a candidate to rack up some saves.

Dominic Smith, $2.55 million
First time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $578,826
is a crucial piece of the 2021 Mets after breaking out in ’20 with a .993 OPS, 10 homers and 42 RBIs. The major question is where Smith will play. If the designated hitter returns to the National League, he will spend most days there and at first base. If not, Smith might be forced back into left field, where he is a below-average defender. In either case, Smith has proven enough with his bat that the Mets consider him a crucial part of their future.

Miguel Castro, $1.6875 million
Second time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $1.05 million
The Mets acquired reliever at the 2020 Trade Deadline in part because he came with another two years of team control. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched only nine innings for the Mets down the stretch but figures to play a prominent role in the bullpen this year, along with Díaz, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and possibly Lugo.

Robert Gsellman, $1.3 million
Second time arbitration-eligible; 2020 salary: $1.225 million
was a non-tender candidate late last year, until the Mets decided to tender him a one-year deal that is now worth $1.3 million. He missed last Opening Day because of a triceps injury, then tried to stretch out as a starting pitcher in the middle of the season with poor results, posting a 9.64 ERA in four starts and two relief appearances. Still, the Mets believe Gsellman can be a valuable member of their bullpen going forward.

Previously agreed to deals: Starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard ($9.7 million), starting pitcher Steven Matz ($5.2 million), outfielder Guillermo Heredia ($1 million), reliever Jacob Barnes ($750,000).