Inside the Clubhouse: Francisco Lindor’s extension, Yermin Mercedes and more

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This week, Inside the Clubhouse looks at the Mets negotiating with Francisco Lindor in public, Yermin Mercedes hitting everything and more.

In the end, Francisco Lindor wanted to surpass the $340 million guarantee that Fernando Tatis Jr. secured from the San Diego Padres. The way each got there couldn’t have been more different.

Tatis and his agents at MVP Sports Group made it clear to the Padres that they did not want any part of the negotiations leaked. Meanwhile, every step of the New York Mets’ talks with Lindor were reported in real-time.

First, it was that the negotiations would start in early March. Then it was that the Mets offered 10 years, $325 million while Lindor and his agent David Meter sought 12 years, $385 million. Then it was that talks were at an impasse, with Mets owner Steve Cohen tweeting that he “hoped (Lindor) decides to sign” while crowdsourcing his Twitter followers on what Lindor would accept.

Lindor, who eventually agreed to a 10-year, $341 million contract extension with the Mets, said that he thought Cohen’s tweets were funny. But in being so public with the negotiations, Cohen and the Mets risked damaging their relationship with Lindor and having their fanbase turn on their star player before he even played a game in New York.

It worked out, of course, so it’s a moot point. But some rival agents and executives believe that Cohen and the Mets will need to tone it down when negotiating extensions with Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard in the future.

Said one agent: “It may not work so well the next time.”

Jack Flaherty on going from 60 to 162 games

In a recent phone conversation, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty downplayed concerns about an increase in pitcher injuries as Major League Baseball moves from a 60 to 162-game season.

“You saw the amount of injuries that happened in a 60-game season because we had to start and stop and start up again,” he said. “For some teams, it was start, stop, start, stop, start. That’s bigger than anything.”

Flaherty, however, believes that dieting and proper sleep has never been more important for athletes. He revamped his diet this winter and has been working with trainers in his inner circle to ensure that he can stay healthy as he prepared for a full season’s workload (33 starts in 2019) after making only nine starts in a shortened 2020 season.

Even with Flaherty downplaying concerns, executives have never been more paranoid about the threat of injuries. Teams have long tried to keep their players healthy and limit injuries, but the unique circumstances of this season figure to make those questions grow louder.

“What will be interesting is as the season goes on is being able to manage it,” Flaherty said. “Listening to your body and knowing that it was a different year last year and getting back to 162 games. It made this offseason that much more important.”

White Sox’s Yermin Mercedes is impressing early

Yermin Mercedes might not have made the Chicago White Sox’s Opening Day roster had it not been for the loss of Eloy Jimenez. But he has made the most of his opportunity and has emerged as the talk of baseball.

Mercedes, 28, set a major-league record with eight consecutive hits to start the season. He is hitting .889/.889/1.444 with one home run and six RBI in his first two games, prompting reliever Evan Marshall to tell reporters: “I’d be offering Yerm an extension right now. That’s some of the best hitting consecutively I’ve ever seen.”

The White Sox plan to ride Mercedes’ hot bat as long as possible, but they want to give at-bats to Jake Lamb, Zack Collins, Leury García and Billy Hamilton. Mercedes needs to earn the team’s trust behind the plate before he can earn more consistent playing time, but even that could prove difficult.

Yasmani Grandal is entrenched as the primary catcher, even as he begins to incorporate a one-knee stance after dealing with right knee issues this spring. Collins, a first-round pick in 2016, looms as the clear backup. This leaves Mercedes with minimal time behind the plate and most of his opportunities coming as a designated hitter.

Mercedes’ current pace is not sustainable, but if he continues to perform well at the plate, the White Sox will have no other choice than to find ways to get him into the lineup. Which could come at the expense of a veteran or Collins, a player the organization is increasingly high on after a strong spring training.

Nationals hit hard by pandemic

The early signs were encouraging, but the Washington Nationals reminded us that we’re not out of the woods yet.

Their opening series against the New York Mets and first game against the Atlanta Braves were canceled after the team had a COVID-19 outbreak. When they return on Tuesday, the team will be without Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber, Josh Harrison and Alex Avila, among others, as first reported by Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post.

10 things I think:

  • I think Shohei Ohtani, now healthy, is primed for a breakout season now that the Los Angeles Angels have promised to ease restrictions on their two-way star.
  • I think the Milwaukee Brewers’ one-two punch of Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes atop the rotation is a big reason why they will win the National League Central.
  • I think Ke’Bryan Hayes is quickly going to establish himself as baseball’s next star. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ top prospect slashed .376/.442/.682 last season and hit a home run in his first at-bat on Opening Day.
  • I think the Chicago Cubs are playing with fire by low-balling franchise icon Anthony Rizzo with a five-year, $70 million contract extension offer, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported.
  • I think the Colorado Rockies would be wise to listen to trade offers for Trevor Story and get something of value in return before he potentially leaves in free agency this winter.
  • I think the Toronto Blue Jays, even after signing George Springer and Marcus Semien, are not a playoff team. The rotation is a big reason why. Hyun-jin Ryu is reliable, but the quartet of Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark, Steven Matz and Ross Stripling combined to produce a 6.98 ERA in 2020. They need to be a lot better.
  • I think Ty Buttrey, who detailed why he walked away from baseball, reminded us that baseball players are more than just athletes. They’re people. “I want to finally be known as just Ty, not Ty, the baseball player.”
  • I think that even with Francisco Lindor off the board, the Great Free-Agent Shortstop Class of 2021-22 features some high-end names such as Story, Javier Báez, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. Another name to add to the list: Marcus Semien, a Gold Glove shortstop who will play mostly second base this season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • I think if their opening series against the Baltimore Orioles is any indication, that the Boston Red Sox are going to be in for a long season.
  • I think some team would be wise to sign free-agent left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano, who requested his release from the Blue Jays after being notified he did not make the team. He threw 7.1 scoreless innings this spring and could be a valuable player for a team looking for a multi-inning reliever.

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