The day before the start of the season, the New York Mets inked star shortstop Francisco Lindor to a ten-year, $341 million contract extension that will keep him in the Big Apple through his age-38 season.
Source confirms the Mets and Francisco Lindor have agreed on a 10-year, $341M contract extension to begin in 2022. No opt-outs, by the way.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) April 1, 2021
It’s fair to say that the Mets have invested valuable resources in Lindor, since they acquired him from the Cleveland Indians by surrendering young shortstops Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez plus two prospects, with Carlos Carrasco going to New York alongside Lindor.
Will Lindor be worth the financial investment and the time, effort, and prospects it took to bring him to New York?
As of Monday afternoon, the talented infielder wasn’t having a particularly fruitful start of the year.
Lindor is hitting .190/.301/.281 with three home runs and a 72 wRC+ (weighted Runs Created Plus) in 34 games and 145 plate appearances.
The wRC+ stat allows us to encompass all offensive contributions and consider other factors to conclude whether a player is an above or below-average performer with the bat.
With 100 wRC+ being an “average” offensive player, Lindor’s 72 is well-below the lofty expectations for a player of his caliber, especially considering that he has a 116 career wRC+.
Lindor has been playing at a high level defensively, which is his strongest suit, but the offense has been subpar.
He recently had to endure a 0-for-26 cold spell at the plate, something unprecedented for him.
"As soon as I hit the ball, I was just hoping that nobody caught it."
Francisco Lindor on the relief of snapping an 0-for-26 skid: pic.twitter.com/yUpjDMYmJ6
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 6, 2021
Lindor By The Numbers
But even with the early offensive struggles, there is no reason to think Lindor won’t justify his salary in 2021.
For starters, even if he agreed to sign for $34.1 million per year, that contract kicks in next year.
This year, he is signed for $22.3 million, which is what he and the Mets agreed in his final year of salary arbitration.
Most teams have internal calculations that estimate each Win Above Replacement, or WAR, to be worth around $8 million in the open market.
Lindor, in his last four full seasons (excluding 2020 for obvious reasons) has averaged 5.85 WAR according to FanGraphs’ version.
Eight times that would be $48.8 million, and even if we are conservative and project him to get 3 WAR given his slow start in 2021, we still get $24 million, which would justify his 2021 salary.
Lindor is starting to come around at the plate, going 5-for-12 between May 8 and May 12, before getting cold again for his last three games.
He Is Still Adjusting To New Surroundings
Consider that Lindor is also in a new league, a new team, with different pitchers and surroundings.
Once he finds a rhythm at the plate, he will likely return to being an above-average offensive shortstop with elite fielding and good baserunning.
There is no reason to think Lindor has lost it, or is already declining.
He is striking out at a similar pace as he has always done it (14.5 percent strikeout rate in 2021, 14.1 in his career) and is even taking more walks (12.4 walk rate in 2021, 8.3 in his career).
He is hitting the ball hard (more than 95 miles per hour of exit velocity) at a 42.3 percent rate, the highest of his career.
The main problem seems to be groundballs, the worst possible batted ball.
His 48.5 groundball percentage is his highest seasonal mark since 2016, and the number is already dropping, which means he started to make adjustments.
Once everything comes together, Lindor will be back among the best shortstops in the league, easily justifying his huge payday.