As Guardians face Mets, let's revisit the landmark Lindor trade

May 19th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It’s still too early to determine who won the trade. It could take another decade for the answer to become clear and frankly, there might never be a winner. That’s a good thing as far as the respective teams are concerned. So far, both clubs appear happy with how the trade has unfolded.

The Guardians’ visit to Citi Field for a three-game series beginning Friday, however, offers a chance to reflect on the six-player deal that changed the course of both franchises. The trade, which took place in January 2021, looked like this:

Mets received: Lindor,

Since joining the Mets, Lindor and Carrasco have combined for 9.8 bWAR, with Lindor accumulating most of that value. Rosario and Giménez have combined for 15.5 bWAR for the Guardians, suggesting an early edge for Cleveland in the trade. Both Wolf and Greene, though, have been non-factors, struggling enough to fall out of Cleveland’s Top 30 prospects list. Each team has made and missed the playoffs once.

“A hundred percent, I support them,” Lindor said of his old franchise. “I want nothing but the best for them. But obviously they’re going to play against us, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to beat them.”

Following the 2020 season, Lindor found himself embroiled in trade rumors as the mid-market Guardians sought to unload him for a haul of younger players, knowing they would be unlikely to re-sign him in free agency. A member of the Cleveland front office called Lindor early in the offseason to tell him nothing was imminent. Then, shortly after New Year's, Lindor received another call that talks were picking up. Not long before the deal was finalized, Lindor learned that he and Carrasco were heading to the Mets.

“I was scared, because I was going to start fresh,” Lindor recalled. “But I also felt protected, because I was not going to go by myself. I knew [the Guardians] loved me, and wherever I went, I was going to go to a place where they loved me as well. I was scared, but at the same time, it was exciting.”

Since that time, Lindor has become a franchise pillar, forging friendships with Steve and Alex Cohen and, of course, signing a 10-year, $341 million extension. He calls Manhattan home and has become a connoisseur of the food and arts scenes.

“This was one of the places I wanted to be,” Lindor said.

For the Mets, it’s impossible to grade the deal without considering the extension that followed. Right now, that looks like an overpay -- in part because of Lindor’s performance, but also because of shifting market factors since he agreed to terms. Had the Mets waited for Lindor to reach free agency after the 2021 season, they almost certainly could have signed him for cheaper.

But hindsight has a way of changing the complexion of things. Back in March 2021, during Cohen’s first six months as owner, there was significant public pressure for the Mets to make a splash. Signing Lindor seemed to be the easiest way to do it, which is why Cohen and then-general manager Zack Scott agreed to Lindor’s desires.

So, who won the Lindor trade? It remains impossible to say but make no mistake: the successes of Rosario and especially Giménez in Cleveland tell only a small part of the story. The history of this trade will always hinge on Lindor, and whether he can bring a championship to New York.

“I expected it to be a tough challenge, but very rewarding,” Lindor said. “And it’s been like that. Last year, playoffs, I was like, ‘Yes. That’s what I came here to do.’ So those little things, that’s the rewarding part of the challenge of coming here.”