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Mr. Smile Goes to NY: What the Lindor Trade Means for the Indians and Mets

By: Andrew Fenichel

Fifty-eight days.

When Steve Cohen was introduced as the new owner of the New York Mets on Nov. 10, he said, “if I don’t win a World Series in the next three to five years… I would consider that slightly disappointing” and went on to tell Mets fans that he was working on making a splashy move to improve a Mets roster that finished the 2020 season tied for dead last in the NL East.

It took him exactly 58 days to make that splash.

Steve Cohen has made an immediate impact as the new owner of the New York Mets. (AP Photo/File)

In a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Indians on Jan. 7, the Mets acquired four-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco from the Indians in exchange for shortstops Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez, outfielder Isaiah Greene and pitcher Josh Wolf.

Since his debut in 2015, Lindor has quickly become one of the best overall players in MLB, finishing in the top 15 of AL MVP voting each year from 2016-19. But for a small market team like the Indians, a trade swapping Lindor for young prospects was practically inevitable, as Lindor is set to command a long-term contract perhaps worth over $300 million as a free agent after the 2021 season.

For context, after this trade, Cleveland’s entire team payroll for the 2021 season dropped to $23 million – the lowest in the majors, according to Spotrac.

For additional context, Steve Cohen’s net worth is estimated at $14 billion.

So, given that Lindor was never re-signing in Cleveland, this trade is a theoretical win-win for both teams. But just how good are the Mets now? Are they the new favorites in the loaded NL East? How big of a loss is Gimenez? And what’s next for the Indians? Let’s break it down.

What the Mets are Getting in Lindor

Watch Lindor play one game and it’s apparent that he’s electric on and off the field and will be perfect playing under the bright lights of the Big Apple.

The Lindor Watch is finally over as he goes to the Mets. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

It’s easy get a deeper look at the four-time All-Star’s impact using Stats Perform’s raw value metric, which examines how a batter (RV+) or pitcher (RV-) performs throughout each pitch of an at-bat rather than just the end result, with a score of 100 considered average.

In 2020, Lindor had a 125 RV+, meaning he was 25% better than the average hitter. Over the past two seasons, Stats Perform graded Lindor’s contact ability as his best semi-isolated hitting skill (compared to his discipline+ and BIP+), with a contact+ of 107 in 2019 and 105 in 2020.

Compare this to Gimenez, who was set to be a starting infielder for the Mets after Robinson Cano was suspended for the entire 2021 season after a second positive PED test, and the motivation for this trade becomes obvious. Gimenez had a 66 RV+ in 2020, so that single position offensive upgrade alone will make a massive difference for the Mets.

And, oh yeah, Lindor is also considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the game.

Don’t Sleep on the Carrasco Acquisition

While Lindor is the headliner in this deal, and rightfully so, Carrasco is hardly a throw-in.

Carlos Carrasco could be an underrated pickup in the Lindor trade. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

With a 2.91 ERA over 12 starts, the Venezuelan right-hander posted an RV- of 88 just one year after earning 2019 AL Comeback Player of the Year. And in a four year stretch between 2015 and 2018, Carrasco posted a 3.40 ERA over 722 innings as a starter for the Indians.

Add Carrasco to a Mets rotation that includes Jacob deGrom (43 RV- in 2020), Marcus Stroman (82 RV- in 2019), David Peterson (91 RV- in 2020) and Noah Syndergaard possibly returning from Tommy John surgery in June, and all of a sudden, the Mets have some arms that might be able to neutralize the likes of 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, Bryce Harper and the other big bats in the NL East.

There are still question marks surrounding the back-end of the rotation after Mets pitching finished just 14th in Stats Perform’s adjusted team rankings and 22nd in ERA (4.98) in 2020, but the addition of Carrasco and the return of Stroman could help improve those numbers.

Is Jose Ramirez the Next Indian to be Moved?

Without knowing the other offers that Indians GM Mike Chernoff had on the table, “grading” or judging this trade from the Indians side is difficult.

Jose Ramirez’s days could be numbered in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

That being said, MLB.com ranked Wolf and Greene the ninth- and 10th-best prospects in New York’s 20th-ranked farm system, respectively. That’s not bad of a return considering the Indians might not have had a ton of leverage in trade negotiations.

The crown jewel of the return is definitely Gimenez, who was a top prospect at this time last year. He impressed as a rookie in 2020, triple slashing .263/.333/.398 and finishing seventh in the NL Rookie of the Year voting while winning the starting shortstop job from Rosario.

However, the same question about Lindor’s looming contract also reigns true with Ramirez. Coming off a runner-up finish in the AL MVP voting, Ramirez is on the last guaranteed year of his contract and again, given Cleveland’s small market status and the revenue loss from the COVID-shortened season, trading Ramirez seems like the next logical step in a potential rebuild.

Are the Mets the Team to Beat in the NL East?

The quick answer is, well, no. The three-time defending champion Atlanta Braves ranked fifth overall in the 2020 adjusted team rankings with 57.6 total runs above average using RV, far ahead of the Mets, who were 11th with 24.1 total runs.

2020 Adjusted Team Rankings

NL EastBattingPitchingOverall
Braves3115
Mets81411
Phillies102216
Nationals112519
Marlins272627

With Lindor and Carrasco, the Mets have likely closed the gap somewhat on the Braves and figure to be one of the three best teams in the East on paper. Their ceiling in the playoffs will likely come down to whether their starting pitchers can stay healthy and perform.

The Braves and Washington Nationals both got better this offseason, as Atlanta signed pitcher Charlie Morton to bolster the rotation and the Nationals traded for first baseman Josh Bell and signed outfielder Kyle Schwarber to add some serious left-handed pop to their lineup. The Marlins and Phillies should not be overlooked either—they finished second and third in the division in 2020, respectively.

Lindor’s eventual extension likely takes the Mets out of the running for Trevor Bauer. But if there’s anything this trade confirms, it’s that Cohen is showing up to the big-league poker table and shoving all of his chips in the center. Could a move for George Springer, DJ LeMahieu or even Kris Bryant be next?

Stay tuned to find out.

 

Data modeling provided by Lucas Haupt.

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