Inside the Clubhouse: What will the Mets pay to keep Francisco Lindor?

This week, Inside the Clubhouse looks at the state of negotiations between Francisco Lindor and the Mets, the depth of the Cardinals’ pitching rotation and more.

The New York Mets will begin contract extension talks with star shortstop Francisco Lindor this week, as first reported by Jon Heyman of MLB Network, with Lindor establishing Opening Day as a soft deadline for a deal to get done.

If an extension gets done, what might it look like?

Lindor, 27, is one of the best shortstops in baseball and figures to command a contract worth at least $300 million. The Mets understood this when they acquired him from the Cleveland Indians. While both sides have indicated clear mutual interest in completing a mega-extension, each has acknowledged that he could leave New York once his contract expires this season.

But can the Mets really afford to acquire Lindor for four players and let him leave after one season only to sign one of, say, Carlos Correa or Trevor Story in a star-studded free-agent shortstop class next winter? The answer is no. Lindor represents the first major acquisition of the Steve Cohen era of ownership and failing to re-sign him for financial reasons would naturally draw comparisons to the Wilpon era that preceded him.

It is something Cohen and president Sandy Alderson cannot risk. They should have the funds available, considering they were willing to offer Trevor Bauer $40 million annually, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. They could put together a seven- or eight-year offer that would make Lindor the first $40 million-per-year player in baseball history. But the more likely scenario would appear to be signing a 10-plus year deal that would take Lindor into his late-30s, though one source said negotiations are expected to be “complicated.”

Lindor has made it clear that he plans to be picky when signing his next contract. He has previously turned down a $200+ million offer from the Cleveland Indians. He wants to maximize his value, and if the Mets do not offer a contract he feels is indicative of his worth, there will be no shortage of suitors willing to make him a nine-figure offer in the $300 million range.

Here are what four rival agents believe his next contract will look like:

Agent 1: “If I’m Lindor and I see Tatis sign for $340 million, I’m not taking less than that on a 10-year deal. He’s probably shooting for Mookie Betts’ deal (12 years, $365 million) but more realistic is $350-ish million. Maybe 11 years if you count this year. But if I’m the Mets, I don’t go that high. I’ll go $320-330 million and make him decide.”

Agent 2: “Lots of variables to consider right now. Teams will want to point to the pandemic, uncertainty about fans in the stands and the potential work stoppage. But Mookie’s deal illustrates that when you acquire impact talent in their walk year, you intend on making a run at locking them up even in the face of all those issues.

“Mookie was/is a way better player. I’d imagine a 10-year, $300 million deal would be the bar his camp is going for. Get as much in the form of a signing bonus as possible to minimize the New York taxes and enjoy Florida’s no state income tax when he collects his money. The signing bonus also isn’t subject to a work stoppage or proration so he’ll ensure he keeps getting paid regardless.”

Agent 3: “It’s a tough one to peg. But I’d say $35-40 million (annually) for 7-12 years. If Tatis is getting $40 million in his free-agent years NOW, this far away, then Lindor is worth more.”

Agent 4: “Sky’s the limit with him. He’s going to want 10 years at least. He doesn’t need to take a discount. He’s about to be a free agent. $35 million a year is easy. Should be more.”

Cardinals rotation depth is already being tested

The St. Louis Cardinals took a chance not upgrading their rotation this winter. It might already be coming back to bite them.

Miles Mikolas was shut down Wednesday following lingering shoulder “crankiness” and is unlikely to be available by Opening Day. While MRI results were “favorable” and showed no structural damage, it adds increased uncertainty to a Cardinals rotation that entered spring training with question marks behind Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Kwang Hyun Kim.

The Cardinals would benefit from an external addition, but the best options in a limited market include Rick Porcello and Homer Bailey. Jake Odorizzi was on their radar before he signed with the Houston Astros, but they were never considered a frontrunner, according to sources familiar with the situation.

In the meantime, the Cardinals will rely on their internal options. Carlos Martinez has been volatile in recent seasons, but has experience in the rotation. Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant have fared better out of the bullpen than as starters. Austin Gomber was sent to Colorado in the Nolan Arenado deal. Alex Reyes, a talented yet oft-injured right-hander, is expected to pitch 100+ innings in a multi-inning relief role. Other options include Johan Oviedo, Genesis Cabrera and Jake Woodford.

Perhaps pitchers currently on rosters will exercise opt-out clauses in their contracts and become free agents in the coming weeks. Perhaps one or two internal options step up. But in not stepping up for Odorizzi or any other free-agent starting pitcher, the Cardinals’ depth is already being tested before a season in which depth has never been more important.

Adalberto Mondesi extension in the works?

The Kansas City Royals have already signed Hunter Dozier to a four-year, $25 million contract extension that includes a $10 million club option for a fifth season.

They might not be done.

The Royals have recently engaged with infielder Adalberto Mondesi about a contract extension, according to sources familiar with the situation, though one source cautioned that there is “a lot to work through.”

Mondesi, 25, is under club control for three more seasons, though the Royals may be wise to sign him to an extension sooner than later. Club officials are hopeful that his strong finish in September and October — .356/.408/.667 with six home runs and 24 RBI in 100 plate appearances — is a sign of things to come.

Other teams, meanwhile, have been eager to extend their young players. But Tatis Jr.’s mega extension has made such deals complicated, with one agent saying: “Teams are aggressively pursuing more deals with team control, but Tatis deal kind of jammed everything up for them seeing a guy get paid free agent dollars when he’s pre-arbitration.”

Around the Horn:

  • Jon Heyman recently recorded a podcast with Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and it is well worth your time.
  • Free-agent closer Roberto Osuna is holding a showcase for interested teams on Friday, March 12 at Tetelo Vargas Stadium in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.
  • The market for free-agent infielder Maikel Franco has recently heated up, as Heyman reported, and among the interested teams include the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets.

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