When the New York Mets pulled off their blockbuster winter deal with the future Cleveland Guardians this past offseason, every fan agreed: signing Francisco Lindor to a long-term deal was a necessity.
The Mets gave up two young shortstops, a recent second-round draft pick, and a teenage outfielder with some nice potential. Whether you were a fan of the trade or not, it was practically unanimous. A long-term relationship with Lindor was a must.
This isn’t the case with Javier Baez. Two months of him might be all we get and all we need. Although it did cost the club Pete Crow-Armstrong, the 2020 first-round draft selection, that’s the cost of doing business. You have to give a little to get a little.
The Mets need to answer a few questions before free agency begins
A lot can happen between now and the time Baez is available to become a free agent. We know the Mets aren’t going to sign him to an extension before then. Chances are, he does reach free agency regardless of how everything goes. I would put the odds of the team signing him to a late October extension, as they did with Mike Piazza, very low.
The intention with Baez is much different than Lindor. Adding Lindor was a choice to help the team now and in the future. He was the franchise-altering shortstop they haven’t had in years. Renting him for just the 2021 season would have been a bad look for the Mets. Only two months of Baez—with a possible third if they make the postseason—isn’t so rough.
How Baez performs will have a lot to do with whether or not he stays in Flushing. A bad stint in Flushing guarantees he’ll get a fruit basket and some well wishes before going on his way. If he’s able to lead them far, it becomes more of a debate.
At that point, the Mets need to ask themselves: where does Baez fit in?
A few decisions need to be altered in order to keep Baez beyond 2021. First, would he be willing to play third base? The team could always move Jeff McNeil there, but the preferred choice by many would be to have Baez at the hot corner and leave McNeill at his natural position.
Then comes the Robinson Cano problem. What do we do about him?
To an extent, Baez does fit the mold of the type of player the Mets front office would add. A skilled fielder, this management team has realized the value of good defense. Add in the fact that hitting for power has been his greatest consistency and we may have a match.
It’s way too soon to have any idea what the future holds for Baez. He has already suffered a couple of injuries with the team and an IL stint would throw a huge wrench into whatever ideas any of us have for him.
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Regardless of anything that happens, he’s pretty much guaranteed to test the free agent market—the wisest thing he can do. Because he’s fully capable of playing shortstop, marketing himself that way could earn him bigger dollars. When it comes down to it, I think it’s another team that offers him a larger fistful than the Mets.