PORT ST. LUCIE — As much as this first Mets spring training of the Steve Cohen Era will be about preparing for 2021 greatness, it will also be about the franchise’s long-term talent base.
And Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor aren’t the only objects of the Mets’ desire.
Mets president Sandy Alderson said Monday that, in addition to impending free agents Conforto and Lindor, the Mets also intend to engage a third walk-year guy, Noah Syndergaard, who will begin this season on the injured list as he works his way back from 2020 Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
“Noah’s contract expires at the end of the year,” Alderson said on a Zoom call. “It would be natural for us to talk about the possibilities, the options. We will do that.”
Syndergaard very well might want to wait to re-establish his market value with a strong return from surgery. Nevertheless, this marked the first time Alderson has raised such a prospect.
As for Lindor and Conforto, Alderson said, “I think those conversations will start relatively soon in both cases.”
The Mets acquired Lindor as well as pitcher Carlos Carrasco from the Indians in a January mega-swap.
“We made the trade,” Alderson said. “That doesn’t mean necessarily we are guaranteed to have him long term, but I think we are committed to talking about it.”
As for Lindor’s stated request that such negotiations conclude by the end of spring training, “Francisco has said he doesn’t want to negotiate after the season starts. We’ve taken that at face value. We’ll make every effort to see what can be done between now and then. On the other hand, if things don’t work out by the end of spring training, hopefully we can continue to communicate…We’ll try to make that timetable as best as we can.” Alderson praised Lindor for the leadership he has displayed early in camp.
Conforto’s agent Scott Boras has established his brand through free agency, although some of his clients, among them Stephen Strasbrugh with the Nationals and Jose Altuve with the Astros, have bypassed free agency and landed lucrative extensions.
“We’ve had Conforto for many years,” said Alderson, who drafted Conforto 10th overall, as Mets general manager, in the 2014 amateur draft. “He has not only become an excellent player, but also part of the leadership group within the clubhouse. He’s represented the Mets for a long period of time and represented us well. I think if it’s possible, we will make the effort to keep Michael with us.”
Alderson defended the Mets’ busy winter, in which they added both top-shelf and roster-depth-filling talent yet didn’t add any of the top free agents (Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu, J.T. Realmuto or George Springer), a surprise to the industry.
“I’m very comfortable with the way it shook out,” Alderson said. “We acquired Lindor and Carrasco from Cleveland. These were big acquisitions. We had to be mindful of the negotiations with which we might engage with Lindor, with Conforto, possibly with Syndergaard. There are lots of opportunities for us to spend money long term.”
Discussing the Mets’ decision to sign James McCann at catcher over Realmuto, Alderson said, “Had we not pivoted to McCann, we might not have acquired Lindor and Carrasco after having spent a lot of money on someone else,” referring obviously to Realmuto.
It’s widely believed that Springer, a Connecticut native, wanted to join the Mets. He signed a six-year, $150-million contract with the Blue Jays after the Mets offered him $125 million over five years.
“I think it all came down to five yeras versus six,” Alderson said. “In our case, we had to be constantly aware of players already on the team who were going to be in a similar position and how many of those deals we could actually negotiate and complete and not hamstring ourselves going forward. Had we signed Springer, it’s probably less likely we’d re-sign Conforto.
“At some point even Steve Cohen runs out of money.”