Mets: Francisco Lindor extension talks expected to begin “in earnest” this week

With three major stars hitting free agency after the 2021 season, the New York Mets have some work to do if they want to build a sustainable winner for 2022 and beyond. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, and outfielder Michael Conforto are all playing the last year of their respective deals, and are expected to test the market in October unless they reach an agreement to stay in Queens long-term.

Of the three, perhaps Lindor should be the number one priority given that he came via trade just a few weeks ago and the Mets would want to justify the assets that they gave away and sign him to a blockbuster deal to make the All-Star shortstop the face of the franchise for years to come.

So far, the Mets like what they have seen from Lindor: a player who works hard on and off the field and tries to motivate and help his teammates to be better players. His energy in the clubhouse is unmatched, day in and day out.

The Mets want Lindor for the long haul

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Lindor and the Mets are expected to begin extension talks “in earnest” this week.

Per Heyman, the Mets and Lindor’s representatives have Opening Day (April 1) as a kind of a “soft deadline”, meaning that they would like a deal done by then but is by no means a necessity. That would give the team a little over three weeks to get Lindor’s signature in a long-term pact, which seems reasonable.

Neither side would like talks to extend into the regular season, so it’s possible that they are able to hammer out a deal.

Lindor’s on-field performance has been excellent over the course of his career despite a slightly down 2020 season.

He has a career .285/.346/.488 line with a .351 wOBA and a 118 wRC+. Last season with the Cleveland Indians, he hit .258/.335/.415 with eight homers and six steals.

5 players the New York Giants can cut to create cap space

New York Giants, Cody Core

If the New York Giants wish to be active in the free-agent market, they are going to need to make several difficult decisions this off-season. Releasing players is a reality teams face every year, but due to COVID-19, this off-season will be especially unique. With the cap expected to settle in the $180 million range, it will require the shedding of dead weight, and the Giants will undoubtedly need to make a few cuts.

After releasing Golden Tate and David Mayo, the Giants currently have $6 million in available space, not nearly enough to re-sign Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, let alone sign outside free agents.

Five players the New York Giants can cut to create cap space:

1.) Nate Solder: $10M if cut post-June 1

The expectation is that Solder will be cut post-June 1, which will open up about $10 million and give the Giants enough money to sign their draft picks and carry a bit of cash into training camp.

As we saw last year, supplementing injuries is a reality that often times strikes, just as Logan Ryan was signed with Xavier McKinney fracturing his foot before the start of the season. With about $8 million needed to sign their draft picks, the Giants would have about $2 million left over to make any necessary moves.

2.) Kevin Zeitler: $12M if cut

The Giants simply can’t afford to damage their offensive line more than it already is, given they were the 32nd ranked pass blocking unit in 2020. However, right guard Kevin Zeitler holds a $14.5 million cap hit for 2021, so restructuring his contract is a necessity, but they could also cut him and save $12 million straight up. This will be an interesting one to keep an eye on.

3.) Cody Core: $2M if cut

Core suffered an Achilles tear during training camp last year, and with no dead money this upcoming season, saving the $2 million is a likelihood.

4.) Levine Toilolo: $2.95M if cut

Signing Toilolo was already a mystery, but retaining him would be blasphemous. Last year with the Giants, Levine played in just 27% of offensive snaps, catching just five passes for 46 yards. He is a primary blocking tight end, and why the Giants felt he deserved this type of contract for his lone skill is interesting.

5.) Spencer Pulley: $2.75M if cut

The Giants recently signed reserve center Jonotthan Harrison, formerly of the New York Jets. He will cost a mere fraction of what Spencer Pulley is projected to make in 2021, so the Giants will likely cut bait and save nearly $3 million in space.

Total: $29.7M saved

Yankees News, 3/8: Gary Sanchez AL MVP? Brett Gardner still has some juice left in the tank

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees are looking to make a World Series appearance for the first time in over a decade, but they are going to need some influential players to rise to the occasion. Injuries have taken a significant toll on the team over the past few years, so remaining healthy is priority number one.

The Yankees have started off spring training strong, specifically the starting unit. Against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday afternoon, they emerged victorious 4-0, but it was veteran Brett Gardner who was responsible for all four of the Yankees runs.

Gardner recently signed a two-year deal to remain with the Bombers, with the second year a club option. He will earn $5.15 million for the 2021 season, significantly less than the $10 million the Yankees would’ve had to pay if they picked up his option for this upcoming campaign. Instead, they elected to execute a buyout, which cost them $2.5 million. Ultimately, they saved about $2.5 million in the process.

Can Gary Sanchez revive his career with the Yankees?

One player that needs to bounce back is catcher Gary Sanchez, who has struggled considerably the past two seasons. In 2020, he recorded a career-low .147 average and a career-high 36% strikeout rate. It was his worst season to date, and while the sample size was just 49 games, it only proves a compounding regression. However, Sanchez has worked diligently to get into better shape and prepare for the 2021 season.

Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge believes that Sanchez is primed for a big bounceback year.

“Gary’s gonna have a special year this year… Gary’s a guy that can go out there and win AL MVP,” Judge said.

Judge has quietly watched Gary’s work toward a long-term contract, but his regression has hurt the Yankees’ confidence in him. It is nice to see Sanchez’s teammates standing up for him, even when the cards are stacked against him.

“It was pretty amazing to see the improvements he made in just a short amount of time… His want and need to get better is something that’s always impressed me. He’s a hard worker. I don’t think he gets enough credit for the amount of work and amount of hours he puts in at his craft. It’s exciting to see the success he’s had so far in spring training, and looking forward to the season.”

New York Yankees: 3 major takeaways from Sunday’s shutout of the Phillies

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

The New York Yankees could only wish they could have a pitching demonstration in every game they had on Sunday. Jordan Montgomery, in his second start of the season, was, well, superb. After a great start in his first outing, yesterday he showed the rotation how it’s done. He started by grounding out Andrew McCutchen, the former Yankee. He struck out another former Yankee in Didi Gregorius. Next up was Bryce Harper, who also grounded out for a perfect first for Monty.

Segura faced Monty to start the second inning. He had a line drive that DJ LeMahieu snagged in an exceptional play. Knapp got a long fly ball that Judge at the warning track caught. Miller flew out for another one-two-three inning for Montgomery.

Montgomery out for the third. Joyce singled, Quinn singled, ex-Yankee Ronald Torreyes had a line drive to Torres for the first out. Andujar made a great play to cut off the runner at second, two outs. Didi Gregorius struck out for the third out of the half. Monty looked good early in this spring training, and yesterday was everything the New York Yankees could have wanted.

Next up was Jonathan Loaisiga. Jonathan Loaisiga for the New York Yankees got his chance to pitch in the fourth, grounding out Bryce Harper. Segura struck out. Knapp chopped out a single, and Miller flew out to Hicks for a scoreless inning. He followed that for a second inning. Joyce singled off him leading off. Quinn failed to advance him. Torreyes hit into a double play ending the half. Loaisiga’s day was nothing if it was not brilliant.

Each succeeding Yankees pitcher did his job until Brookes Kriske, who had his troubles in the ninth; he walked the first two hitters he faced but still managed to get out of the inning without giving up a run to the Phillies.

Brett Gardner is washed up

Wait just one moment, please. If you watched yesterday’s game, Brett Gardner is the only reason the New York Yankees won the game. His Grand Slam and his four runs scored was the only Yankee scoring of the game. The rest of the Yankee lineup remained nearly silent.

During the offseason, the veteran relinquished, waiting to see if the Yankees would bring him back for yet another season. Fans in a pole were 50/50 on if the team should bring him back. Some wanted to see him back for sentimental reasons, stating that he was the Yankees’ heart and soul and deserved another season so his family could see him play again and retire as a Yankee. The other thought his time had passed, and the Yankees should move on. Yesterday the veteran showed he can still play and be an integral part of a winning team.

When healthy Stanton is Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton was the 2017 National League MVP hitting 59 home runs and batting .281. In a somewhat questionable move that was quite expensive for the New York Yankee, they traded with the Miami Marlins to make Stanton a Yankee and took on his massive contract. In 2018 the Yankees got pretty much what they asked for. Stanton hit 38 home runs and hit .266. That’s when it all went south; 2019 and 2020 revealed Stanton as an injury-laden player that couldn’t stay on the field.

However, in the 2020 postseason, when healthy Stanton hit six home runs in just seven games, hitting .301 with a 1.462 OPS. Stanton entered this season completely healthy. In yesterday’s spring training game, he hit two massive doubles. The Yankees couldn’t get him home, but his doubles were no doubters, both hit with extreme power. If Stanton can remain healthy, there is little doubt that he can be an important tool for the Yankees to get to another championship.

 

Knicks rookie Obi Toppin falls short in Slam Dunk, hopes to return next year

New York Knicks’ lottery pick Obi Toppin came up short in the Slam Dunk Contest as his between-the-legs dunk from inside the free-throw line wasn’t enough.

Portland Trail Blazers’ guard Anfernee Simons sealed the Slam Dunk title with a kiss to the rim.

Though the 6-foot-3 Simons didn’t actually kiss the rim on his final dunk, but his bounce and insane vertical leap gave him a 3-2 edge in the final round.

New scoring format

In the NBA’s attempt to avoid the Dwyane Wade judging controversy last year, they changed the final round scoring from scorecards to “judges choice.” The five judges, all past Slam Dunk champions, were made to choose who is their winner after seeing both dunks.

Dominique Wilkins, Jason Richardson, and Dee Brown went with Simmons, while Spud Webb and Josh Smith chose Toppin.

The Knicks rookie feels he has more to show and hopes to have another shot as early as next year.

“Me, given this opportunity to be on this stage with all these great players, it’s a dream come true. I didn’t get the win, but all three of us had great dunks, and it was a fun experience,” Toppin said. “Hopefully, I can come back next year.”

Next year’s NBA All-Star Weekend will be held in Cleveland, where Toppin would have some sort of homecourt advantage, having played college ball in nearby Dayton, Ohio.

Flashy start

Toppin started the contest with a sick trick — a reverse between-the-legs bounce pass to himself.

Then he followed it up with a slam jumping over his teammate Julius Randle and his father Obadiah Toppin in the next round.

Double L

It was a double whammy for the Knicks as Randle also got booted out early in the Skills Challenge. The eventual winner Domantas Sabonis eliminated him right in the first round.

Randle played for 13 minutes as a reserve for Team Durant in the All-Star Game won by Team LeBron, 170-150. The first-time All-Star tallied four points, two rebounds, and two assists in his brief stint on the floor.

The Knicks will be back in action on Thursday. They will start their grueling second-half schedule against newly minted NBA All-Star MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on the road.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo