The New York Mets agreed to a six-player trade with Cleveland on Thursday that will net them All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and right-handed starter Carlos Carrasco in exchange for a package led by shortstops Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario.
That Lindor and Carrasco were traded this winter shouldn't come as a surprise. Lindor will qualify for free agency after the 2021 season, and Cleveland's ownership has made it clear that it was unwilling to pay him his worth to retain his services. Carrasco, meanwhile, would've received his 10-5 rights -- the power to veto any trade that comes with 10 years of service and five with the same team -- early on in the upcoming season.
That the Mets were involved shouldn't be a shock, either. New owner Steve Cohen, estimated to be the sport's richest, is committed to building a World Series-winning club. Adding Lindor, a face-of-the-franchise type, without sacrificing much in terms of the big-league roster or the farm system is a no-brainer. Even if the Mets fail to extend Lindor -- and the ball is in their court to get that done the same way the Los Angeles Dodgers did with Mookie Betts -- this is unlikely to be a trade that they come to regret.
We here at CBS Sports are nothing if not judgmental. As such, we've decided to break down the trade while providing grades for each team. Let's proceed to that part of the endeavor now, beginning with a recap of the moving pieces:
- Mets receive: SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco
- Cleveland receives: SS Andres Gimenez, SS Amed Rosario, RHP Josh Wolf, OF Isaiah Greene
Mets grade: A
This is the kind of blockbuster acquisition the Mets were supposed to make early and often under Cohen's ownership, in terms of both the headline and the method -- preying on penny-pinching owners unwilling to pony up to keep their best players in town. That the Mets were able to lasso Lindor and Carrasco without sacrificing anything they'll miss is an impressive piece of work by new general manager Jared Porter.
Lindor is, of course, a star. Prior to the pandemic, he had reeled off four consecutive seasons in which he had amassed five-plus Wins Above Replacement. The only players with more WAR than Lindor over the last five years are Mike Trout, Betts, Nolan Arenado, and Jose Ramirez. (It does not reflect well on baseball's current operating philosophy that four of the five may end up being traded within a three-year period.)
Lindor can do it all. At the plate, he's a switch-hitter who makes loud contact and who takes his walks without striking out a ton. On the basepaths, he's an efficient thief capable of swiping bats at volume. In the field, he's a splendid defensive shortstop. If you're nitpicking, you could point out that he's struggled against lefties the past two seasons (though it's unclear how much of that can be attributed to a small sample size), or that he … makes decisions with hair dye that others would balk at? You have to really, really reach, which is the most surefire indicator that he is a franchise player.
It's unclear what kind of contract Lindor has on his vision board. Under normal circumstances, he'd be justified to shoot for more than the Anthony Rendon deal (seven years, $245 million) and hope that inflation's gentle breeze pushed his demand downwind, far closer to the Mookie Betts extension (12 years, $365 million). Now? Who knows. That uncertainty should, theoretically, help the Mets' odds of retaining Lindor.
Carrasco's addition shouldn't be overlooked, either. He's coming off a season in which he posted a 2.91 ERA (157 ERA+) and a 3.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Outside of 2019, when he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, he's been a reliably above-average starter who doubles as a well-regarded figure in the clubhouse.
Carrasco uses three pitches to good effect: a 94 mph fastball with high spin rates, a slider, and a changeup that he used at a career-high frequency last season. It's probably fair to pencil him in as at least a No. 3 starter heading forward, with the potential to produce even better than that. Carrasco is, then, a luxury for a Mets rotation already slated to feature Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and, eventually, Noah Syndergaard.
Carrasco isn't a rental, either. His contract guarantees him $27 million over the next two years. Depending on how he pitches between now and then, the Mets could exercise a club option for the 2023 season that would pay him an additional $11 million.
Regardless of what the Mets do next -- and, to be clear, they should remain aggressive on upmarket targets -- this trade is a major boon for their 2021 chances. Depending on how one evaluates the players Lindor and Carrasco are replacing, it's possible this adds as many as five wins to the Mets' projection. Those are the kinds of gains the Mets have to make if they're going to knock off the Atlanta Braves from the top of the division.
Cleveland grade: D
To paraphrase Wilco, there's no love more random than an owner's. Summing up this trade as a tale of two ownership groups is a touch simplistic, but it makes for a nifty framing device, so here goes nothing. On one side you have the totally invested Cohen, who is doing his darndest to make people forget that he's inspired headlines explaining why he isn't in jail; on the other you have the weary Larry Dolan, who fluctuates between missing the point on his franchise's nickname and destroying his front office's negotiating leverage with his public displays of indifference.
For as good as Cleveland's front office is -- and this is a team that has the second-most wins since 2013 -- it's hard to overcome an owner who handcuffs the baseball operations department at every turn. Here's an instance where it does not appear that Cleveland was able to rise above Dolan -- even though this trade contains the components we expected a Lindor trade would.
Gimenez, 22, has five years of team control remaining after he spent all of last season in the majors. He posted better numbers than expected at the plate, too, batting .263/.333/.398 (102 OPS+) with eight steals on nine tries. He's arguably the closest thing this trade has to a centerpiece and a sure thing, but that doesn't mean he has a star-caliber ceiling. Rather, Gimenez is likely to settle in as a second-division starter. He's a smooth, skilled defender who ought to mostly replace Lindor defensively. Where he can't compete is at the plate, where he neither walks nor hits the ball hard. Gimenez's pull-happy ways also make him easier to defend against, capping his batting average.
Rosario, the veteran of the group, is set to enter his age-25 season. He has three years of team control remaining, but it's an open question as to whether Cleveland will want to keep him around for that long. Rosario would seem to be a non-tender candidate if he performs as he did last season, hitting .252/.272/.371 (76 OPS+) without much in the way of positive underlying indicators.
The first decision Cleveland will have to make with Rosario is deciding where to play him. They could open the season with him at short if they want Gimenez to enjoy more minor-league seasoning. Alternatively, they could toss him at second base to replace Cesar Hernandez, or even center field to take the spot of Delino DeShields Jr. Rosario doesn't have much experience in the outfield, to be clear, but center has been a long-rumored potential destination for him because of his speed and his struggles on the dirt. Wherever he plays, he'll need to hit more to stick around town for long.
Both of the prospects are recent second-round picks with minimal professional experience. Wolf is a 6-foot-3 right-hander with mid-rotation upside. There are outstanding questions about his ability to shoulder a substantive workload, but Cleveland has a good enough track record with evaluating and developing pitchers that it's fair to give them some benefit of the doubt on his inclusion. Greene has above-average power potential, though the scouts who spoke to CBS Sports believe he'll end up in left field in part because of his below-average arm.