PORT ST. LUCIE — The Mets worked harder and were more serious in conversations to try to obtain Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor during the offseason, but they made numerous calls and exchanged several various concepts with the Red Sox about Mookie Betts, The Post has learned.
The Mets viewed Lindor more as a want, than a need because the team has grown more comfortable with Amed Rosario as its shortstop. But the Mets saw Lindor as enough of an upgrade that they diligently pursued him, even with permutations that had Rosario in some offers.
What was appealing about Lindor — beyond the talent — was that he had two seasons of control left, making relinquishing controllable talent more palatable for the Mets.
Betts actually fit the Mets’ needs in a greater way — center field and leadoff hitter. But that he only had one year of control remaining was a huge hurdle. The Mets were concerned about giving up significant talent and adding to their payroll and then — worst-case scenario — what happens if Betts were to be injured?
That is why giving up Jeff McNeil was a non-starter for the Mets. They did not want to surrender what they expect to be five years of control of what the Mets view as an All-Star-level performer, for one year of Betts — as great as they see Betts. And McNeil was integral for the Red Sox.
The previous offseason the Rays were focused on McNeil in three-team trade discussions that would have sent J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins to the Mets. At that time Chaim Bloom was the senior VP of baseball operations for the Rays. He had become Red Sox general manager by the time the Mets and Boston were talking regularly in December — and McNeil remained attractive to him.
The Mets offered packages centered around Brandon Nimmo or J.D. Davis and one of their top infield prospects, Andres Gimenez or Ronny Mauricio. But that did not muster enough traction, especially because to make any deal work the Mets were going to have to counteract Betts’ $27 million 2020 salary by likely including Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie.
One of Boston’s goals was to go under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, which probably wouldn’t have happened even if the Mets had assumed all of Betts’ pact and certainly not if Cespedes and/or Lowrie were included in any deal. The sides continued to talk about other permutations, but talks never grew serious again after December. Ultimately, Boston got prospects and for now under the threshold by including half of David Price’s contract along with Betts in a trade that netted them three youngsters from the Dodgers in a deal that became official on Tuesday.
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