JUPITER, Fla. — Clover Park experienced a welcome burst of noise pollution at about 7:30 on Monday morning.
“He came into the clubhouse and just was yelling, like, really loud,” Luis Rojas said of Francisco Lindor (who else?). “Everyone was energized by it.”
“It’s game time. It’s game day,” Lindor explained hours later, at the unsubtly named Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. “We spend all offseason training, and we finally get to play a game, whether it counts or not. It’s what we live for.”
Mr. Smile’s first Mets game of any consequence proceeded quietly on the field, as Lindor, batting second and starting at shortstop (where else?), went 0-for-2 and handled one grounder without incident as the Mets dropped their Grapefruit League opener, 2-0, to the Marlins in their first game in front of paying fans since March 2020. Yet the four-time All-Star continued to showcase his star power as he and the Mets prepare to engage in talks for a ginormous contract extension.
“Right now, I’ve been enjoying the process of preparing for games. I don’t know when conversations are going to start,” Lindor said. “When they do start, the great thing is I have an amazing agent [David Meter] to handle it. That’s why he gets paid. He’s going to call me and keep me in the loop, and then it’s going to be the decision after that. Let him have all the headaches. Let him run all the numbers and stuff.”
Mets president Sandy Alderson said Monday morning, in a Zoom news conference, that the club’s efforts to extend both Lindor, acquired from the Indians in January, and homegrown Michael Conforto “will start relatively soon in both cases.” Alderson added, “We made the trade [for Lindor]. That doesn’t mean necessarily we are guaranteed to have him long term, but I think we are committed to talking about it.”
As for Lindor’s stated request that such negotiations conclude by the end of spring training, “Francisco has said he doesn’t want to negotiate after the season starts. We’ve taken that at face value,” Alderson said. “We’ll make every effort to see what can be done between now and then. On the other hand, if things don’t work out by the end of spring training, hopefully we can continue to communicate. … We’ll try to make that timetable as best as we can.”
Lindor nearly beat out a swinging bunt in front of the mound in the first inning. In the third inning, batting lefty versus Miami righty reliever Anthony Bass, he lined out to left fielder Corey Dickerson.
While he’s coming off a subpar (for him) COVID-shortened 2020 season, having posted a .258/.335/.415 slash line, Lindor’s first four full big league seasons put him in line for a megadeal that could top $300 million. He has played his future cool, expressing an openness to bypassing free agency while not going gaga over such a path.
“I just live life on a daily basis. I’m living the dream,” said Lindor, who identified marrying his fiancée Nilmarie Huertas and committing to a team long term as his two remaining priorities. “The dream is pretty damn good.”
He has certainly compelled the Mets to dream about having him long term since arriving in camp. Alderson praised Lindor for the leadership he already has exhibited — as one example, Lindor has worked with Mets third baseman J.D. Davis on putting himself in better positions — and Rojas said, “He’s acting like he’s home.”
In accordance with that, Lindor has gotten to know the heads of the home, new Mets owner Steve Cohen and his wife Alex. Said the Puerto Rico native Lindor: “Alex (who is of Puerto Rican descent), our backgrounds are pretty similar. She’s a great woman, powerful woman, great heart.
“Steve, talking to him is always fun. He’s a good person, great character. His mindset is different than other people’s. I like that. I like that he’s always got a good sense of humor. Seeing them, chatting with them, that’s what it’s all about. He signs my check so why not have a good relationship? I’m playing for his organization. I’ve got to represent the Cohen family the right way and represent the Mets the right way.”
His Mets exhibition debut didn’t serve as Lindor’s only cause for excitement Monday. His new athletic shoe, The Lindor 1 from New Balance, launched, further firing up the 27-year-old.
“It was amazing. I haven’t cried out of excitement in a long time and today was one of those days,” Lindor said. “I’m humble, I’m excited. It’s a blessing that the Lord has dropped on me and my family.”
More blessings could arrive in short order if the Mets’ price is right.