‘A little kid from Puerto Rico’: Francisco Lindor cashes in with 10-year, $341 million Mets deal

At perhaps the most defining moment in his life, the most irrepressible player in Major League Baseball had nowhere to go.

After weeks of conjecture, consternation and the occasional haggling over his contractual status, Francisco Lindor’s past sacrifices and future fortunes coalesced all at once Wednesday evening into Thursday morning, a simple phone call from his agent, asking, “Three forty-one – how does that sound?” changing his life forever.

And with that, Lindor became the best-paid shortstop – 10 years, $341 million – in baseball history, the undeniable catalyst of the New York Mets through 2031.

It justified the Mets’ winter acquisition of Lindor from Cleveland, who could not be moved to pay him market value. It showed the trepidation his fiancée felt for New York City had been allayed.

And it marked the end of a long road for this “little kid from Puerto Rico,” as Lindor called himself, who built himself into the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft into a four-time All-Star and perennial MVP candidate.

Yet life allows no guarantees when and where these defining moments occur.

That’s how Lindor found himself boxed into a hotel room in Arlington, Va., in the middle of a pandemic and on the eve of the Mets’ season opener.

Lindor wanted to scream – but feared he’d rouse his hotel neighbors.

He wanted to jump into his pool – but was thousands of miles from home.

He needed to share the news, but not everyone stays up so late.

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His sister – asleep. So, too was fellow Puerto Rican and former Cleveland teammate Roberto Perez.

He did manage to reach his father, the man who drove him to greatness, yet now was beefing with his son over exuberance.

“I called him,” Lindor said Thursday afternoon on a video call with news media, “he was happy, ecstatic and I told him I wanted to scream. And he said, ‘No, no, no, don’t scream, don’t scream.’

"I’m like, ‘Pop, what are you talking about? You know when you drive down the highway and you see the billboard with the Powerball that says $300 million, imagine you getting that right now?  You’re gonna tell me you’re not going to scream?’

“I’m going to scream. I want to scream.”

So, too do the Mets.

Francisco Lindor and first baseman Pete Alonso during a spring training game. (Photo: Lynne Sladky, AP)

Lindor’s extension signals an ostensibly new era for a franchise that occasionally ran into greatness under the Wilpon family regime yet had a penchant for getting in its own way. Now, new owner Steven Cohen – probably the richest man in MLB’s ownership circle – dealt for and locked down one of the game’s most talented and charismatic players.

It was a stirring negotiation, as those things go, Cohen and Lindor dining on Sunday in Florida, finding themselves $71 million apart, then finding common ground as Lindor’s de facto opening day deadline for negotiations bore down.

There figures to be zero regret on either side, particularly in the short term, though Lindor exuberantly assured the media there will never be any buyer’s remorse.

When Lindor’s contract expires, he will be 38 years old, an age unfriendly to ballplayers and downright cruel for those fortunate to play in the middle of the field.

And just how will an almost-40 Lindor perform in 2031?

“I’ll be a bad mother-effer, I’ll tell you that,” he said, cutting himself off before his language turned as blue as his spring training hairdo.

Who’s to doubt him?

Certainly not a Mets clubhouse already struck by his leadership skills and burning competitiveness.

“I think he’s influenced a lot of guys here to upgrade their games and how we present ourselves on the field,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said Thursday. “This is a guy determined to win; it’s all he talks about.”

And certainly not his peers in what was once a five-man superstar class of shortstops set to hit free agency after this season. Now, it is four – including fellow Puerto Ricans Carlos Correa and Javy Baez – and they weren’t far from the front of Lindor’s mind as negotiations rumbled along.

That total value of $341 million – one more mil than 21-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. received over 14 years – might as well have been splashed on a Broadway marquee. Lindor acknowledged the pride in setting a new standard for shortstops.

He’s equally bullish on the remaining four All-Stars – Correa, Baez, Cory Seager and Trevor Story – knocking him atop the throne.

“Players did it for me, they set up the path for me, and that’s why I’m getting paid what I’m getting paid today,” he said. “The Pujols, the Machados, the Beltrans, players that set up this market for m.

“And it was my turn. My turn to set up the market for the next players to come.”

Unfortunately for Lindor, Thursday brought no outlet for his adrenaline. The season opener at Washington was postponed due to multiple positive COVID-19 tests among the Nationals; his Mets debut might have to wait until next week.

In one week, he’ll make his Citi Field debut, before a crowd thirsty for the stability only a player like Lindor can bring. The Big Apple, it seems, should suffice as a venue to absorb Lindor’s overwhelming energy.

“I look forward to the Subway Series,” he said of the home-and-home clash with the crosstown Yankees. “That’s what they call it, right?”

He’ll learn, soon enough. And New York has more than a decade to enjoy a superstar seemingly impossible to contain.

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