A few moments after hitting his first home run in a Mets uniform on Tuesday, with eye black still on his face and a uniform still on his shoulders, Francisco Lindor confirmed that he has begun long-term contract negotiations with the Mets.
He also gave his strongest indication yet that a hard deadline is looming.
“I will not be negotiating during the season,” Lindor said during the Mets’ 8-3 win over the Astros. “I will go to free agency if something carries on during the season. It’s not fair for me. It’s not fair for the team. I’ve got to give everything I’ve got into winning baseball games, so if it doesn’t happen in Spring Training, I’ll go to free agency and we’ll talk in November.”
When the Mets acquired Lindor from the Indians in January, he indicated that he would like to limit negotiations to Spring Training, all while keeping the door slightly ajar for something to happen later. That tune changed on Tuesday, when Lindor made it clear that he considers April 1 a firm cutoff.
Outside of that timeline, Lindor declined to provide a window into negotiations, saying only that talks have begun but have not advanced to a serious stage. For now, Lindor’s agent is handling the business side of things, while Lindor focuses on preparing for Opening Day. Since beginning Grapefruit League play in an 0-for-7 skid, Lindor has gone 5-for-15 -- a stretch that includes his two-run homer Tuesday off Astros right-hander Jairo Solis, which Lindor pulled down the right-field line.
“It felt great to be able to pull the baseball in the correct way,” he said. “In Spring Training, engines are just starting to run. So I was just happy I was able to pull the baseball the correct way.”
Few doubt Lindor’s abilities at the plate and in the field; of greater question is how interested he is in forgoing free agency next offseason to sign long term now. Mets officials have made it clear they want to keep Lindor around, but that they are comfortable with the six-player trade that brought him here even if Lindor does not sign an extension. Should they struggle to complete a deal, the Mets could pivot to Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story or Javier Báez on the open market next winter, or simply reopen talks with Lindor at that time.
Still, Mets officials understand the statement it would make to sign Lindor to a mega-contract now, in the opening months of Steve Cohen’s ownership. And Lindor appears to like things in New York, where he has already become a central clubhouse figure.
“I’m very comfortable,” Lindor said. “I like the guys here. I like the coaching staff, trainers, athletic trainers -- everybody’s on the right path, you know? We’re all trying to win. We’re all trying to get better. So yeah, I’m liking the organization. I’m feeling more comfortable as we go through every day. This is a good workplace. I’m happy right now, so we’ll see what happens. I’m blessed to once again be surrounded by a great group of guys.”
Asked what matters to him in extension talks, Lindor did not discuss length of contract, average annual value, opt-outs or no-trade clauses. Instead, he answered quickly: “My family.”
“Wherever my family is happy, wherever my family is comfortable, that’s what I value the most,” Lindor said. “I’m very appreciative of the position I am [in] today. I’m blessed to be in this position. I’m humbled that a team would love to pay me. But I want my family to be happy. I want my family to be in a safe place. I knew they could be safe in Cleveland, and I know they can be safe in New York. So we’ll see what happens.”