ABOUT FRANCISCO LINDOR
Now fans know what the Tribe was dealing with when trying to sign Francisco Lindor to a long-term deal. Did you notice Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million contract with the Mets?
Notice the total…$341 million. Why $341 million? Because Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a 14-year, $340 million deal with San Diego in February.
It’s clear Lindor and his agent wanted to top that total contract value. The $341 million is the third-richest contract in MLB history. The leaders are Mike Trout ($426 million) and Mookie Betts ($365 million).
Players and agents keep score, not just on the field, but also on payday. Lindor wanted to be among baseball’s highest-paid players. Agent David Meter knows it’s in Lindor’s interest and his own to negotiate a huge deal.
How do agents attract new clients? By negotiating deals such as Meter did with Lindor and the Mets. When an agent agrees to a “team-friendly deal,” other agents often use that against him when recruiting new clients.
It’s the game within the game.
In February of 2019, Bryce Harper signed a $330 million deal with the Phillies. Why $330 million? Because it was a little more than the $325 million deal previously signed by Giancarlo Stanton with Miami. At that point, Stanton’s deal was the richest. Since then, Trout, Betts, Tatis and now Lindor have passed Harper in terms of total dollars.
Lindor has had his eye on being paid among the game’s elite for years. It’s a common goal for great players. He also knows a large market will open up lots of endorsement opportunities.
He now has both.
THE ENDLESS CONTRACTS
Ten years: Lindor. Twelve years: Betts. Fourteen years: Tatis.
A contract like that for all but the few largest and richest franchises is stupid and financially irresponsible. Even for the big-money teams, a contract lasting 10 or more years invariably becomes a bad deal in the end.
I don’t know exactly what Lindor’s agents asked from the Tribe. Nor do I know what Cleveland offered. But from the early days when Lindor emerged as a star, he had at least one eye on free agency. One reason is he received a $2.9 million signing bonus when he was selected out of high school in the 2011 draft.
He told friends that deal gave him the ability to wait and not sign the contract extensions offered by the Tribe. By 2019, he was paid $10.5 million. In 2020, it was $17.5 million (less than that because of COVID).
I’ve written columns before about how teams end up signing players to these decade-type deals, and then trade them a few years later. Not only that, they pay a larger-market team part of the salary to dump the contract.
In the spring of 2019, Colorado signed Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million deal. Two years later, the Rockies realized the deal was too rich. Arenado figured out his team was on a massive rebuild. He then was traded to St. Louis for prospects … and the Rockies agreed to pay the Cardinals $50 million of the $200 million left on his deal.
All of this screams for MLB to have some type of maximum contract system, much like the NBA where deals are limited to four or five years. But it’s doubtful that will happen in the next labor negotiations as the current deal expires at the end of the 2021 season.
MORE THOUGHTS ON LINDOR
1. If they had to do it over again, I wonder if the Tribe wishes it had traded Lindor before the 2020 season. Remember all the rumors with the Dodgers before 2020 spring training? Not sure what they offered, but I was told it was similar to what the Dodgers sent to Boston for Betts before the 2020 season.
2. The best player Boston received was outfielder Alex Verdugo, a career .290 hitter (.803 OPS). They also received Class A infielder Jeter Downs (2017 first-round pick, rated No. 2 prospect in Boston’s farm system) and catcher Connor Wong. Downs and Wong will probably play in Class AA this season.
3. The Tribe received two big league-ready players for Lindor. Andres Gimenez is the starting shortstop. He is an above-average defender with a chance to become elite. Amed Rosario (a former shortstop) is trying to learn center field. The Tribe also sent Carlos Carrasco to the Mets in the deal.
4. This from MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo right after the trade: “New York once believed it had a budding superstar in Rosario, but he struggled offensively and defensively for much of his first four years in the majors, before losing his starting job to Giménez in 2020. (Mets President Sandy) Alderson noted that Giménez, who is highly regarded for both his glove and hit tools, was ‘one of the most popular asks’ by opposing general managers this winter.”
5. The Tribe also added two very low minor-league prospects: Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene. Wolf was a second-round pick by the Mets in the 2019 draft. He threw only eight innings in rookie ball. The 20 year old will start in Class A.
6. Greene was a 2020 second-round pick. Because COVID-19 wiped out the minors in 2020, the 19-year-old outfielder will start his pro career this season. It’s about the same story for Wolf. So these are highly regarded prospects, but extremely young and far from the majors.
7. I have no idea if the package Boston received from Dodgers is better than what the Tribe received from the Mets. Prospect-heavy deals take time to evaluate. But it was obvious Cleveland had to trade Lindor.
8. Also in the trade was Carrasco. Now 34, the former Tribe pitcher had a sore elbow early in camp. Then he tore his hamstring. His arm is supposed to be OK now, but he opened the season on the disabled list. Carrasco dealt with leukemia in 2019. He was 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts last season for Cleveland.
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