How acquiring Francisco Lindor could help the Mets pitch their way past the Dodgers
Dodgers? Padres? Who ya got?
How about the New York Mets?
Yes, the Mets acquired dynamic shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians on Thursday — a four-time All-Star, a force in the lineup, an impact player for years to come. No, the Mets are not as good as the World Series champion Dodgers or the San Diego Padres, at least right now.
But winning in October is about winning in a short series, and the Mets might suddenly have become the team no one wants to draw in the first round.
The Mets got veteran starter Carlos Carrasco from the Indians too. So, in a short series, here is a four-man rotation the Mets could use:
Game 1: Jacob deGrom, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He won the National League Cy Young Award in 2018 and 2019; he finished third last year.
Game 2: Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ ace before DeGrom, expected to return from Tommy John surgery in June.
The Dodgers aren’t willing to give free agent Justin Turner a four-year contract and are exploring DJ Lemahieu, Eugenio Suárez and Kris Bryant as options.
Game 3: Marcus Stroman, a 2019 All-Star and the MVP of the last World Baseball Classic.
Game 4: Carrasco, who has posted a 3.38 earned-run average or lower in four of the past five seasons and beat leukemia in the fifth.
The Dodgers could run out Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price and Dustin May. Or Tony Gonsolin. Or Julio Urías.
The Padres could line up Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack. By October, they could unveil Mackenzie Gore, considered the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues.
Who ya got?
The Mets cannot match the Dodgers or the Padres in the bullpen. The Mets cannot match either team in the lineup, even after adding a player so coveted that this will forever be known as “the Lindor trade,” no matter how effective Carrasco might be.
Lindor is 27. He has played five full seasons, an all-star in four of them, with two Silver Slugger awards and two Gold Glove awards. In the last three non-pandemic seasons, he hit 103 home runs and stole 62 bases.
He is the Mets’ answer to Mookie Betts. In the three seasons before the Dodgers acquired him, Betts hit 85 home runs, stole 72 bases and won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and an MVP award.
Lindor was available because the Indians, who could have won with him, decided to trade him one year shy of free agency and let another team pay him for the long term.
In the American League, only the three division winners had a better record last season than the Indians. But this is how they do it in Cleveland, which we are obligated to point out is a larger market than San Diego.
In 2018, the Indians won 91 games, and the AL Central. Their top four starters: Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer and Carrasco, all gone now.
2020 began with the Dodgers grumbling about the Astros’ sign-stealing but turned positive with the acquisition of Mookie Betts and an overdue World Series title.
The Mets kept their best prospects when they traded for Lindor and Carrasco, just as the Padres did when they traded for Snell, Darvish and Clevinger, just as the Dodgers did when they traded for Betts.
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The Mets are playing to win, with a massively wealthy owner, Steve Cohen, who has relished the chance to make a team his own since he was outbid by Mark Walter for the Dodgers in 2012.
This is not a particularly great day for Trevor Bauer, looking to cash in as the top pitcher available in free agency, since the owner most willing to spend no longer has a glaring need for starting pitching. Cohen’s next move might well be to sign free-agent outfielder George Springer, and then we could entertain a lineup comparison to the Dodgers and Padres.
Even for now — and, granted, with more than 100 free agents still available — Fangraphs ran the Lindor trade through its computers and analyzed the Dodgers with the best roster in the majors, followed by the Padres, and then the Mets.
Without a new deal for an expanded postseason, the five-team NL field looks unfortunately predictable just one week into the new year: the Dodgers, Padres, Mets, Atlanta Braves, and the champion of the NL Central, the division where no one is playing to win.
That could mean the Dodgers defend their championship in a short series against the Mets. On the mound, who ya got?
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