Mike Piazza’s ideal Mets, Francisco Lindor scenario probably won’t happen

The Mets’ willingness to cross the $300 million threshold with Francisco Lindor underlines their seriousness in wanting to lock in their new shortstop before his Opening Day deadline. The natural

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The Mets’ willingness to cross the $300 million threshold with Francisco Lindor underlines their seriousness in wanting to lock in their new shortstop before his Opening Day deadline. The natural contract for the impending free agent Lindor to match, if not exceed, has been the 10-year, $300 million pact that Manny Machado — one year younger than Lindor on the baseball scale — received from the Padres in February 2019.

Should the two sides find common ground in time, it’ll be a festive day for the Mets, their first seismic commitment since Steve Cohen purchased the club (unless Michael Conforto signs an extension first). And, as a seismic commitment from a generation ago indirectly reminded them on Monday, it’ll come with an elevated risk.

“It’s going to be tough. I think that’s part of the challenge of being here,” Mike Piazza, in Mets camp as a guest instructor, said during a Zoom news conference at Clover Park. “That’s what makes it unique. It’s a wonderful place to play when you’re winning, but if you’re struggling, it’s not a lot of fun.

“[Lindor] has to go out and prove it, of course, but he just seems like a really cool guy. He’s got colored hair, that’s for sure.”

Piazza and Lindor chatted on Monday, the Hall of Fame catcher revealed, adding, “I was fortunate to have a nice conversation with him today and it seems like he has such a good head on his shoulders.”

Francisco Lindor and Mike Piazza
Getty Images, Anthony J. Causi

No evidence exists to the contrary. Since becoming a Met in a January trade with the Indians, the 27-year-old Lindor has aced every test. He arrived with a sterling reputation and has kept slugging, fielding and smiling through this pandemic spring training. Nevertheless, Piazza’s Mets tale exemplifies the benefits that come from going through the grind together before tying the knot.

Piazza and Lindor don’t serve as exact parallels, since Piazza joined the Mets during the season, courtesy of a May 1998 trade with the Marlins (who had acquired him from the Dodgers barely a week prior). He didn’t enjoy the luxury of spring training. And while a look at his numbers refute the myth that he truly struggled offensively out of the gate, some early failures in the clutch led to Shea Stadium boos and fed a midsummer narrative that he wouldn’t be sticking around for 1999 and beyond. He ultimately turned that around and carried the team just short of the playoffs.

“I would say it wasn’t until about the end of August when I started saying, ‘Really, I can do this. I’m meant to be here,’ ” Piazza said. “ ‘I have to follow through on this.’ ”

After the 1998 season, before free agency began, Piazza and the Mets agreed on a seven-year, $91 million deal, the most money given to a player in baseball history at the time, setting off celebrations in Flushing.

“Invariably we all struggle. It’s a game of failure at times,” Piazza said. “And so [Lindor] is going to have to know how to get out of those situations where maybe he’s not playing as well. Once you kind of deal with it here, because of course there’s going to be scrutiny and media and things like that, just to generally try to stay off the roller coaster, try to keep things even keel, be consistent.”

Piazza added: “I think he’s got to go out and get comfortable, and the fact that he has such a good team around him is important as well for me.”

The two sides could table discussions, Lindor could enjoy a great season and then they could do as Piazza did, re-upping (for more money than he’d get now) as validation of their fit. At the moment, however, that doesn’t appear to be the most likely scenario.

The Yankees assumed this sort of risk by giving Gerrit Cole $324 million without a trial run, and so far, so good. Two years into their relationship with Machado, the Padres feel just fine. These deals happen and they can work.

The roller coaster feels less frightening, though, when you know the full ride already as Piazza did.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Ken Davidoff

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