Can Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco Help the Mets Win the National League East?

Can Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco Help the Mets Win the National League East?
Former Cleveland Indian Francisco Lindor. Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP

It wasn’t a shock to see the New York Mets make the first big splash in the offseason with the acquisition of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. The question now is will that be enough to make New York the top choice in MLB predictions to win the NL East, or are more moves required?

With an “Under New Management” sign hanging outside Citi Field in Flushing, new Mets owner Steve Cohen promised to open the checkbook to make some big changes. Cohen certainly delivered on that guarantee by trading four young players to the Cleveland Indians to land Lindor and Carrasco.

When MLB futures odds were introduced last fall shortly after the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, New York was sitting in the 25/1 to 30/1 range to win the 2021 Fall Classic. After the deal with Cleveland, the Mets zipped up around 12/1 at most shops. Cohen also proclaimed he would work out a long-term deal for Lindor, who immediately became the face of a franchise that already has stars like Jacob deGrom and Pete Alonso.

New York Mets
Brandon Nimmo #9, Pete Alonso #20, and Michael Conforto #30 of the New York Mets celebrate. Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP

Carrasco Joins Stacked Rotation

Also no surprise was Cleveland trading away Lindor, as the Indians looked to trim payroll and get the best return they could before their star shortstop walked away via free agency. Cleveland made as good of a deal as possible considering all teams interested were low-balling Cleveland GM Mike Chernoff with his hands tied.

Andres Gimenez was the centerpiece in the quartet going back to Cleveland from New York. The talented infielder was joined in the swap by shortstop Amed Rosario, outfielder Isaiah Greene and pitcher Josh Wolf. Greene was the Mets’ 2nd-round pick in 2020 and Wolf a 2nd-rounder in 2019 out of the same Houston high school that produced Cavan Biggio.

So, it’s not like the Mets didn’t pay a price, but the upgrades in a pair of veterans like Lindor and Carrasco should be worth it. Lindor gives New York a huge power lift for a middle infielder; the 27-year-old hit 40 HR in 2019-20 combined while Mets shortstops popped 14.

Carrasco’s story coming back from a leukemia diagnosis is amazing, almost making it easy to forget what a talent he has been on the mound. The 11-year veteran is under contract through 2022, with an option in 2023, and adds to an already solid rotation that has deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz, plus Noah Syndergaard expected to return in June following surgery.

Carlos Carrasco
Former Cleveland starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Dethroning Braves Won’t be Easy

As positive as the additions of Lindor and Carrasco are for the Mets, the path to the NL East title still runs through Atlanta. The Braves are slightly ahead of New York in the rankings, many betting sites carrying Atlanta around 10/1 to 11/1 in the for the division title. The Braves will be looking for a fourth consecutive crown, and still have an impressive lineup with reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. plus a rotation that added veteran Charlie Morton to pitch alongside Max Fried and Mike Soroka.

New York leapt well ahead of both the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies after the trade. Washington has its own stacked rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at the top, plus the wunderkind Juan Soto, so the Nationals aren’t going to roll over and accept third place just because the Mets made a blockbuster deal.

Philadelphia has been very quiet this offseason, and might be forced now to shell out more money to try and bring back catcher JT Realmuto, in addition to an arm or two. And then there are the Miami Marlins, who exceeded everyone’s expectations by making the playoffs in the shortened 2020 campaign. In other words, it’s a deep division and will take more than just Lindor and Carrasco putting on a Mets uniform to finish on top.

Another Bat on Mets’ Shopping List

If the dominoes fall into place exactly as New York’s new front office prefer, an extension on Lindor’s contract comes first. That would allow the Mets to assess where they’re at in current payroll to better budget the additions still to come. George Springer has been linked to the Mets during the offseason, but it’s unclear now if they can afford both a new contract for the outfielder plus a mega-deal for Lindor. The hot stove rumor mill has also been active with the idea that New York might be interested in a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant.

There’s no question Lindor and Carrasco significantly shift matters in New York’s favor for a run at the NL East crown. But those two additions alone still aren’t enough to take down the Braves. One more bat and a left-handed reliever just might do the trick.