Well, Los Angeles Dodgers fans could really blame the division-rival San Diego Padres for this, but the New York Mets really went over the edge.
Last offseason, in an effort to ensure the face of their franchise would remain in town for as long as possible, the Pads signed Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year, $340 million contract. Truthfully, we can’t even knock it. Brilliant move. Pay for all of his prime years and then escape the deal before he turns 36 years old.
The Mets, though? They went ahead and traded for Francisco Lindor in a deal with the (now) Cleveland Guardians. Lindor, who was set to hit free agency after 2021, made it clear he would not discuss an extension after Opening Day. The Mets obviously didn’t want to let a talent of his caliber be exposed to the free agent market in an offseason where so many other high-profile names would be available, so owner Steve Cohen budged and decided to change the entire market by ruining it for everyone else.
He gave Lindor a 10-year, $341 million contract. Petty. One million more than Tatis just to … make a point? Might as well be Trevor Bauer. But now every shortstop is viewing that as the benchmark. Tatis was the exception given his age, transcendent talent, and situation in a smaller market that usually has trouble attracting star free agents.
The Mets ruined the shortstop market for the Dodgers this offseason.
Naturally, guys like Corey Seager and Carlos Correa, both of whom have way more postseason experience and are better offensively, said “game over” once Lindor put pen to paper considering the Mets shortstop is a peer of theirs. He’s not Tatis, who signed his megadeal after just 143 games. Sure, we could sit here and argue that his deal actually tipped the scales, but there were at least stark differences that could’ve been used against guys like Seager and Correa in the negotiating process.
With the Mets overpaying Lindor, that disappeared. Nothing to discuss. This is just the price now. $300+ million. Good luck getting out of paying that unless MLB owners conspire again to collectively drive down the price of every free agent.
Let us set the record straight here: we’re not opposed to players raking in the most money they possibly can … however, when prices like this get too prohibitive, we simply know what will happen. Owners will tread lightly and might be willing to put a lesser product on the field instead of spending more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
The Dodgers don’t strike us as a club that would lean in the direction, but with Trea Turner already on the roster, it’s easy for them to justify passing on Seager, especially if he won’t budge on his price. With so many other needs, the shortstop market getting upended thanks to the Mets might have LA prioritizing additions elsewhere.
The richest owner in the sport was supposed to create a more competitive environment in free agency — not cut the market’s head off with his very first move.