Retracing the blockbuster that sent Francisco Lindo to the Mets and made the Guardians... better? (2023)

  • Retracing the blockbuster that sent Francisco Lindo to the Mets and made the Guardians... better? (1)

    David Schoenfield, ESPN Senior WriterMay 19, 2023 07:00 EST


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six years, Francisco Lindois smilingcleveland guards, helped the team reach the 2016 World Series, was a four-time All-Star, hit 30-plus homers three times, won a Gold Glove Award twice and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times. Even now, after the Rangers traded Lindor forNew York Mets, Cleveland's Chris Antonetti reiterated how difficult it is to replace their superstar.

"Our clear preference has always been for Francisco to play a long time in Cleveland, and we've worked hard to make that happen, but ultimately that's not going to be our reality," the Guardian's president of baseball operations told Fenway recently. .

The Mets are already publicly trading: They acquired Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco for a young infielder before the 2021 season.Amed Rosario,andres jimenezand two prospectuses, then signed by Lindor10-year contract extension, $341 millionJust before opening day.

Lindor's first season with the Mets was essentially a disaster, as he hit less than .200 in the first two months. Then, when the Mets fell in the playoff game in August, Lindor and his teammatesJavier Baez, unhappy with the boos from Mets fans, posted his ownThe infamous "thumbs down"to the crowd at home.

Last season was much better. The Mets won 101 games and Lindor hit .270 with 26 homers and 107 RBIs for 5.5 bWAR and finished ninth in MVP voting (Carrasco won just one game in 2021 he won with 15 wins after the match). The performance is in line with what Lindor did from 2016 to 2019, when he averaged 5.7 WAR per season and won over Mets fans in the process.

However, this has not been the best season for the players involved in the trade.

While the initial reaction to Lindor's trade has been very favorable for the Mets, no one is predicting how Jimenez will fare in the 2022 season as he helps lead a young Guardians team inA surprising place for the ALDS(Although the Metsfrustrated in the wild card roundJimenez hit .297/.371/.466 this season, had a 141 OPS+, won a Gold Glove at second base and finished sixth in MVP voting. Baseball-Reference pegged his total at 7.4 WAR, above Lindor's career high of 7.2.

The deal was criticized by many as a pay cut for Cleveland when it was made, but adding up the value of the players included in the deal through 2021 gives us this:

Jimenez/Rosario: 15.8 RAT

Lindor/Carrasco: 9,9 RAT

And that's before salary is taken into account. Antonetti wouldn't put it that way, but the trade is a win for the Guardians, even if it's not exactly a loss for the Mets.

With the Mets hosting the Guards in Sunday Night Baseball (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) -- Cleveland visits Citi Field for the first time since the trade -- let's take a look back at the successful trade, focusing on why it's working for the Guards, especially when so many similar deals -- trading a franchise player in free agency -- isn't going well.

Antonetti didn'tI feel like I'm not familiar with the way Cleveland has operated over the past few decades.

It may be hard to believe from the perspective of 2023, but Cleveland finished in the top five in payroll in 2000 and 2001. After years of futility, after years of futility, one game in the mid-1990s transformed the franchise into a playoff regular, often drawing sellout crowds to watch a strong lineup featuring Albert's stars including Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and Roberto Alomar. But spending dropped to 12th in 2002 with a change in ownership -- all of those players left at the start of the next season. Except for the three-year period from 2017 to 2019, it was never ranked above 20.

If you're not spending money to keep your players or bring in big-name free agents, a team like Cleveland needs to keep the talent coming in to win. You can't keep losing stars like Belle, Ramirez and Thome all leaving via free agency without getting young talent in return.

With this new philosophy, Cleveland fared better when it traded ace pitcher Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos in 2002, acquiring Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips, and major leaguer Lee Stevens. Antonetti was the club's young director at the time.

"I remember the headline: 'Indians buy Stevens, three minor leaguers,'" recalled Antonetti, who mentioned the trade as a reminder that the initial reaction to a big deal is often wrong — or at least a premature reaction.

Lee won the Cy Young in Cleveland, and Sizemore was one of the best all-around players in the game before injury ended his career. (Cleveland traded Phillips to Cincinnati, where he became an All-Star second baseman.)

With that firsthand experience in mind, Antonetti considered multiple offers for Lindor -- who is entering his final season before free agency -- when the two sides couldn't reach an agreement before the 2021 season. Trading him wasn't necessarily an automatic decision: Since 2016 through 2019, the Guardians won more than 90 games in each season and went 35-25 in 2020 for the fourth of five playoff seasons. This was a team trying to win, not one in the process of rebuilding, which had some ramifications for the Guardians' eventual deal with the Mets.

Rosario has been a regular for the Mets since the last two months of the 2017 season. Entering that season, he was a consistent top-10 player and once looked like a potential cornerstone for the Mets. He didn't reach those heights, finishing 2019 with a solid 3.0 WAR season and struggling in a COVID-shortened season as the Mets' defense went bad. Jimenez appeared on the 2020 Opening Day roster, a few weeks before his 22nd birthday, and was a utility player that season.

"He's been in the big leagues with Amed for a number of years and it's clear that he will continue to contribute at the big league level," Antonetti said. "With Andres, his development path was a little different. He skipped Triple-A completely. We really like the skill set he has and a lot of what we've learned about his structure and the type of work he does. information, but I think realistically we know that he may not be ready to be a major league player."

despite this,The Guardians begin the 2021 season with Jimenez as the starter, while the more experienced Rosario spends most of his time at center -- a position he's never played before. That's in line with what many have seen in 2020, and the defensive metrics bear it out: Jimenez looks like a better shortstop, though Rosario is struggling after some progress in the Mets' early tenure.

Antonetti explained, "The thought process was, 'How do we get the best team on the field?' We felt that consistency allowed us to do that. Big thanks to Amed. He was a phenomenal teammate.. .all he cared about was helping the team and finding ways to win, and that was evident in the time that spent with us. It allowed us to look at some of those different options."

Rosario was also tactful about the move, saying: "Midfield is still a good defensive position, so I made a nice change."

Despite Rosario's speed, it wasn't the smoothest transition. When Jimenez struggled in early 2021 with home runs, hitting .179 through mid-May, he was bumped to Triple-A and Rosario returned to the regulars. When Gimenez returned to the big leagues in August, he was now at second base while Rosario remained at shortstop. The club keeps it as its plan for 2022.

Gimenez's defensive metrics at second base were stellar, including 16 runs saved, and the vision test certainly confirmed his excellent range. Rosario's metrics are either below average (Statcast is above average) or very good (+4 DRS). Either way, the Guardians are happy with the schedule: They've allowed the eighth-lowest batting average in the world and won the American League center field, with Gimenez and Rosario combining for 11.6 WAR -- the best center field in the majors. Field Combo, from Baseball-Reference Wars.

The Guardians signed Gimenez at the end of spring trainingA seven-year contract worth $106.5 million, if the team picks up the club option in 2030, the deal could be worth $130 million. Gimenez's offensive numbers started to decline in early 2023, and 2022 could be a career year, but he's still young and brings tremendous value both in the field and on the bases. Even at .238/.313/.361, he had a 1.2 WAR in the quarter -- he's still a 4-5 player, and the Guardians will gleefully embrace this for the next eight seasons.

Both teams entered the series under .500 at Citi Field -- especially the Mets, who have struggled in all phases of the game of late. The Guardians are struggling with runs and are last in the majors in home runs, while Rosario is on a 2,022 run slump. Rosario hasn't been the star people think he is, but he's a solid major league player -- and Jimenez could be the star no one expected.

Rosario, for one, is looking forward to his return to New York and isn't complaining about his time with the Mets or being traded. "They were the organization that gave me my first chance, so I will be forever grateful," he said.

I imagine Mets fans might even applaud the pair -- while quietly wondering if they'd like them back.

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