Here are four ways in which Lindor’s extension changes the picture for the Mets.
What about Michael Conforto?
For several reasons, Lindor was always more likely to sign an extension before Opening Day than Conforto. Lindor's deal does not necessarily preclude the Mets from pursuing Conforto before the outfielder hits free agency, but it will make them warier of the terms of a contract. At the time of Lindor’s signing, a source said the Mets had spoken informally to Conforto’s agent, Scott Boras, about an extension, but they had not reached the point of discussing numbers. Still, industry sources have speculated that Conforto will seek more than $200 million in any deal.
Now, the Mets have a new megadeal on their payroll for the foreseeable future. Signing Conforto would mean locking up more than $100 million of their 2022 payroll on four players: Lindor, Conforto, Jacob deGrom and Robinson Canó, who is still due $24 million next season.
Cohen, a multibillionaire, may have the deepest pockets in baseball, but he has said multiple times that he wants to run an efficient business. That means avoiding Major League Baseball’s luxury-tax threshold, if possible.
Then, there is the matter of Boras, who generally advises his clients to hold out for free agency. If Conforto has a strong 2021 season, he will probably enter the open market as the best available outfielder. He knows that. Boras knows that. Throw all the factors together, and a Conforto extension becomes unlikely -- though far from impossible, given his loyalty to the team.
How does this affect the luxury tax?
For now, it doesn’t. Lindor’s extension does not kick in until 2022, meaning he’s still on the books for $22.3 million this season. That means the Mets remain more than $10 million under MLB’s $210 million threshold for '21, giving them room for a Conforto extension or to maneuver at the Trade Deadline, or both.
Longer term, Lindor puts another significant salary on the payroll, but Mets officials aren’t too concerned about that for multiple reasons. One, Canó comes off the books after the 2023 season. Two, the collective bargaining agreement expires after this year, and team officials expect the new CBA to have a higher tax threshold. So for now, the Mets will proceed as normal, before regrouping once the new CBA comes into effect.
Does Lindor’s deal make a deGrom opt-out more likely?
deGrom’s $137.5 million contract may look paltry by comparison, but it’s still the third-richest deal in franchise history. More to the point, it contains an opt-out after the 2022 season. If deGrom continues pitching at his current level, he’ll likely be able to negotiate a raise, despite the fact that he’ll be 34 at that point.
And that’s the key word -- negotiate. Much like Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, deGrom and the Mets understand the mutual benefit to their relationship. deGrom likes the idea of being a Met for life, and he probably only needs one more contract -- or updated contract -- to do it. The Mets, meanwhile, know how important it is to their franchise's history to keep deGrom in Flushing. Even if deGrom opts out, the two sides can certainly hash out a deal.
As far as numbers go, Lindor’s contract isn’t really applicable here, because he’s a 27-year-old shortstop and deGrom will be a 34-year-old pitcher. The Mets would only look to extend deGrom for a few years, covering most of his late 30s. But there’s no incentive for either side to start talking now, as deGrom still has two seasons ahead of him that could drastically change the picture.
What about Ronny Mauricio?
One of the Mets’ top prospects just so happens to be a shortstop, but he’s now blocked in Flushing through 2031. That leaves New York with two options: trade the 19-year-old Mauricio or move him to third base.
This spring, Mauricio, the Mets' No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, said he’s willing to shift to third, and some scouts peg that as his long-term fit anyway. But the Mets don’t have to do it right away. Instead, they can keep Mauricio at shortstop for the time being, enhancing his trade value if he proves capable of sticking at the position. All the while, they can expose him to third base to give him a home in the event that he stays.
Having multiple options for a prospect of Mauricio’s talent is a good thing, not a bad one, for the Mets.