Breaking from his low profile of recent weeks, Mets owner Steve Cohen chimed in about the Francisco Lindor extension negotiations early Friday evening with a tweet: “What do you think Lindor will accept? I’m going to crowdsource the answer.”
Most responses came in well above $300 million, which is the point of demarcation that many around the industry feel the Mets must cross to lock up Lindor. That would more than double the largest financial commitment in franchise history: $138 million over eight years for David Wright back in 2012.
Asked by one fan if his tweet indicated optimism at completing a deal, Cohen replied: “In this case no.”
Still, sources have maintained that the Mets are negotiating seriously with Lindor, whose self-imposed April 1 deadline gives them less than a week to complete a deal. It’s similar to the situation Jacob deGrom faced two years ago, when he told the Mets he didn’t want to negotiate past Opening Day. Five days before that deadline, deGrom told reporters that he was “less optimistic” about getting a contract done. Negotiations heated up shortly afterward, leading to a five-year, $137.5 million extension agreement two days before the season.
Now, it’s Lindor’s turn. Aside from confirming that negotiations are taking place, the All-Star shortstop has declined to talk about the proceedings.
“I know before my [extension], the main goal was getting ready to go play baseball,” deGrom said. “Whether something got done or not, the main thing I had to do was get ready to play. So I think that helps take your mind off it -- being here, getting ready, being around everybody. … You definitely think about it, and it’s not necessarily easy, but that makes it easier, being here and getting ready.”
Manager Luis Rojas indicated that the Mets might not slot David Peterson, who threw six quality innings in a 7-3 loss to the Nationals on Friday, fourth in their rotation. Team officials have at least some desire to break up Peterson and fellow left-hander Joey Lucchesi, which would bump Peterson up to third in the rotation. Rojas will make that decision in the coming days.
One thing not in question is the identity of the Mets’ Opening Day starter: deGrom. Friday was also deGrom’s day to throw; rather than do so against the Nationals, who will see him April 1 in Washington, he stretched out to 90 pitches in a simulated game earlier in the day.
“There will definitely be more adrenaline come April 1,” deGrom said with a smile.
On Saturday, the Mets will try out the “opener” strategy that they could use regularly during the 2021 season. Reliever Jacob Barnes will start their Grapefruit League game against the Astros, with Lucchesi -- the Mets’ presumptive fifth starter -- appearing after him in relief.
Earlier this spring, Lucchesi offered some reticence to try the strategy, saying he’s “never experienced that … but it’s out of my control.” Understanding that Lucchesi has only come out of the bullpen once in his three-year career, Rojas asked pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to talk to him about the new assignment.
“Knowing his personality, he was probably like, ‘Let’s go,’” Rojas said. “I know he wants to show the different things that he can do on the field, so I don’t see him shying away from any strategy right now.”
Although the Mets are wary of disrupting Lucchesi’s routine, they see some significant benefits to the opener strategy. Most prominently, it allows Lucchesi to avoid the top of the order in the first inning, thereby creating better matchups, while also preventing him from facing the opposition’s best hitters multiple times until much later in games.
Overall this spring, Gsellman owns a 5.63 ERA. Tack on the fact that the Mets would like to carry two lefties in their Opening Day bullpen, and it becomes difficult to imagine a scenario in which Gsellman makes the team. Tarpley’s chances don’t look much better after Friday’s outing ballooned his ERA to 5.68.
One caveat: the Mets could still decide to go with a nine-man bullpen and four-man bench early in the season, pushing outfielder Albert Almora Jr. off the roster, though that scenario appears less likely.
Bringing the heat
Noah Syndergaard hit 97 mph on the radar gun this week while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, according to Rojas. Long one of the league’s hardest throwers, Syndergaard took another step forward in his recovery on Friday, pitching off the mound with live hitters in the batter’s box.
“I don’t know if he was trying to throw it 97, because I know they’re working in a progression with him,” Rojas said. “But it’s just exciting to hear about his control -- it’s not max effort.”