Home Featured Extra Innings: History for award winners, a new era for the Mets, Lindor likely to be dealt and more

Extra Innings: History for award winners, a new era for the Mets, Lindor likely to be dealt and more

by Chris Brown

The new era is beginning for the New York Mets, one of the best shortstops in baseball will likely be on the move this offseason, and two pitchers accepted their club’s qualifying offers. Let’s jump right into a few of baseball’s biggest storylines right now in this week’s edition of Extra Innings:

Steve Cohen’s tenure as Mets owner is off to as good of a start as possible. Now comes the hard part. 

“The most competent the New York Mets have sounded in decades.” That’s how ESPN’s Jeff Passan described Steven Cohen’s introductory press conference alongside team president Sandy Alderson on Tuesday. Cohen, the billionaire hedge fund manager who just purchased the team for more than $2.4 billion, and Alderson, the former Mets GM, presented a truly encouraging and exciting vision for an organization that’s been baseball’s punchline year after year. 

Cohen stressed professionalism and integrity, promised to act like a major market team and stressed the importance of building sustainable success, with analytics playing a larger role and little micromanaging from the owner’s chair. “I plan to make the investments we need to succeed,” he said. “I’m not trying to make money here. Here, it’s about building something great, building something for the fans, winning.” 

It’s a truly refreshing mindset coming from the Mets front office, and one that certainly could come to fruition. From a monetary perspective, the richest owner in Major League Baseball absolutely has the resources to spend like a big market team as Cohen promised. But changing the decades-long perception of a franchise will also take more than just words, and more than just words and money. Next is the hard part: the action. The action to spend more, yes, but also the action to change the culture throughout. Cohen, Alderson, and those they hire have to actually implement the organizational blueprint they’ve laid out. 

From a transactional standpoint, that may mean signing multiple top-dollar free agents this offseason. Or it could mean a few modest additions to fill holes amongst a club with a really strong core before big deals next offseason. One thing’s for sure: the baseball world is going to have its eye on the Mets for the foreseeable future. They’re hoping that unlike previous years, that occurs for the right reasons instead of the wrong.

There were really no surprises among MLB’s top award winners — though there was plenty of history. 

The hot take would be to have some strong objection to one or multiple of the major awards which were announced this past week by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. But the reality is that all the winners were logical and well-deserving. So instead, let’s look at another aspect: the historical nature of several of the winners.

Mariners center fielder Kyle Lewis became the 12th player in American League history to win Rookie of the Year via unanimous selection and the first Seattle player to win since Ichiro Suzuki back in 2001 after hitting .262 with 11 homers and 28 RBI in 58 games. The NL Rookie of the Year winner was Milwaukee reliever Devin Williams, who struck out 53 batters in 27 frames with a 0.33 ERA, becoming the first Brewers player to win the award since Ryan Braun in 2007.

There was also history in the manager of the year award recipients. For just the second time since the award debuted in 1983, both the winners managed in the same state. The Rays’ Kevin Cash became just the second skipper in Tampa Bay history to take home the honors, joining Joe Maddon. The Marlins’ Don Mattingly, meanwhile, became just the third manager in franchise history to win the award, following Jack McKeon in 2003 and Joe Girardi in 2006.

In the Cy Young race, the Indians’ Shane Bieber became the first unanimous winner of the AL award since Justin Verlander in 2011. This was the most obvious of all the awards after Bieber posted the lowest ERA (1.69) by a qualifying AL starter since MLB lowered the mound back in 1969. The Reds’ Trevor Bauer received 27 of 30 first place votes to become the first Cy Young winner in the history of baseball’s oldest franchise. 

Finally, the White Sox’s José Abreu and the Braves’ Freddie Freeman became the first first basemen to win the MVP award since Joey Votto in 2010. Abreu became the fourth player in MLB history to lead the AL in both hits and RBI — he led MLB in both RBI (60) and total bases (148) in 2020. Abreu is also just the third Cuban-born player to win MVP, joining Zoilo Versalles and Jose Canseco. Freeman’s 1.102 OPS in 2020 was the highest by a Braves player since Rogers Hornsby in 1928. After receiving MVP votes five other times, Freeman received 28 of the 30 first-place votes to win the first MVP by an Atlanta player since Chipper Jones in 1999.

Could one of baseball’s best shortstops soon have a new home?

“Francisco Lindor probably won’t be a member of the Cleveland Indians by Opening Day.” That’s the first line of a recent report from MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, who hears from multiple industry sources that the Indians are likely to trade the four-time All-Star shortstop this offseason — though it could take several weeks or longer for a trade to materialize. 

It should go without saying that one of the best shortstops — and overall players — in baseball would be a huge addition for just about every MLB team. Morosi writes that the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays and Cardinals are currently viewed as the strongest candidates to land Lindor. The Mets don’t have a glaring hole at shortstop but could package together a few young hitters in a trade. A trade of Lindor to the Bronx would likely exclude DJ LeMahieu resigning with the Yankees, while the Phillies are looking to fill the hole vacated by Didi Gregorius — assuming he doesn’t re-sign. The Blue Jays and Cardinals have strong shortstop options in Bo Bichette and Paul DeJong, but could shift them to another infield position with relative ease.

The crucial aspect to consider when it comes to potential Lindor trades is that the soon-to-be 27-year-old will be eligible for free agency after the 2021 season. So suitors will likely be wary of giving up too much if they’re not confident in their ability to re-sign him. With multiple reports indicating that Cleveland intends to deal Lindor this offseason, this will likely remain a key storyline to watch in the weeks ahead.

Quick Hits: Latest Hot Stove rumors and reports

Of the six players extended one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offers by their clubs, two pitchers — Marcus Stroman (Mets) and Kevin Gausman (Giants) — accepted, while the other four — DJ LeMahieu, J.T. Realmuto, George Springer and Trevor Bauer — all rejected as was expected. Aside from that and the Blue Jays’ signing of left-hander Robbie Ray to a one-year, $8 million contract, there hasn’t been much in the way of major signings, but that’s really not unusual given we’re still in mid-November. 

But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been plenty of reports about several notable free agents and the clubs interested in signing them. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the noteworthy reports from recent days:

  • USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Thursday that “rival teams fully expect” that the Rangers will trade Lance Lynn this offseason. About to enter the final year of a three-year, $30 million contract, Lynn is better than every free agent starter with the exception of Trevor Bauer, and it’s easy to see why several teams would be interested after he posted a strong 3.32 ERA in an MLB-high 84 innings in 2020. 
  • MLB agent Scott Boras told Morosi on Tuesday that “there’s a great deal of interest” in left-handed starter James Paxton, one of his clients. Paxton has generally performed well when healthy but struggled in 2020 and was limited to just five starts with the Yankees.
  • MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Thursday that free agent catcher and longtime St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina “has received calls with interest” from the Yankees, Mets and 3-4 other teams. Heyman still called the Cardinals “the likely favorite” destination for the 38-year-old.
  • At least eight to 10 teams have expressed interest in right-handed starter Charlie Morton, who had his $15 million option for 2021 declined by the Rays, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported earlier this week. Morton, who just turned 37 on Thursday, is reportedly believed to be looking for a one-year deal and would be a strong addition for several clubs.

What’s on Deck?

On Monday, Nov. 16, the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot will be released, with the voting results coming a few months later. This will be year nine of 10 on the ballot for the likes of Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, who have not yet reached the 75% threshold to be inducted at Cooperstown. It’s also a down year for first-timers on the ballot, as the group is headlined by Torii Hunter and Mark Buehrle.

Photos by Erik Drost / Flickr (Lindor), New York Mets / YouTube (Cohen), Erik Drost / Flickr (Bieber)

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