Mets Deliver With Francisco Lindor Deal (www.mlb.com)

George Springer is still out there as a free agent, so are Trevor Bauer and DJ LeMahieu. Nolan Arenado is still out there if somebody wants to make a trade for him. But the best player on the market this offseason was Francisco Lindor, a shortstop who plays the game

George Springer is still out there as a free agent, so are Trevor Bauer and DJ LeMahieu. Nolan Arenado is still out there if somebody wants to make a trade for him. But the best player on the market this offseason was

, a shortstop who plays the game with joy, flair and Mookie Betts’ skill set. If anybody was going to be this winter’s Betts, it was Lindor. Now he’ll have the chance to be the kind of game-changer Betts has been with Los Angeles.

Lindor will have that chance with the Mets, who traded for him and for Carlos Carrasco on Thursday, and in doing so, completely changed their possibilities for 2021. There have of course been other big trades in Mets history. The last really big one was made by Sandy Alderson, whom new owner Steve Cohen brought back to run the baseball operations at Citi Field. That was the deal that brought Yoenis Céspedes to the Mets in the summer of ’15, and ultimately sent them to their first World Series in 15 years.

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In the 1980s, Frank Cashen made trades that brought Keith Hernandez and then Gary Carter to the Mets, both of whom got the team into the ’86 World Series. But there has never been a trade that felt any bigger than Thursday’s for Lindor, one of the truly gifted young talents in a game as rich in young talent as any time in its history. Lindor has the right to become a free agent in one year, the same as Betts did when the Dodgers got him from the Red Sox. It is hard to believe the Mets are going to get Lindor to come walking in the door off Tom Seaver Way and then let him walk out after just one season. Especially if they win with him — which they can.

The Yankees still have Aaron Judge. The Mets still have Pete Alonso — who, despite having had a disappointing short season in 2020, still hit 53 home runs the year before that, the most in Mets history. Lindor, Mr. Smile, becomes the most exciting player in town just by showing up.

About a month ago, Alderson had promised a big deal before Christmas. It came a couple of weeks late. Mets fans don’t care, and neither does Alderson, who has done what everyone expected him to do when he came back to New York, which was to swing for the fences.

Lindor can hit and hit for power, field his position and most importantly, make you want to watch him do all of that. And buy a ticket to watch him do all of that, once fans are back in the stands for Major League Baseball. He is the type of player José Reyes was as a kid, just better. Again: As soon as Lindor puts on the uniform, he will be one of the best and most exciting all-around talents the Mets have ever had.

Carrasco will help the Mets, 100 percent, especially if he pitches like the star that he was with Cleveland (18-6 in 2017 and 17 wins in ’18) before he battled and overcame leukemia, to the extent that he became a Comeback Player of the Year. You throw him in with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard — once he returns from Tommy John surgery — and you see how strong the Mets rotation looks.

But the headliner in this deal is Lindor, who really does play the game the way Betts does; who will hit the ground running — literally — in the big city. Betts hits for more average than Lindor does, without a doubt. But in Betts’ MVP Award-winning year with the Red Sox in 2018, he played 136 games, had 614 plate appearances and 520 at-bats. He scored 129 runs, with 180 hits, 32 home runs, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. In that same year with Cleveland, Lindor played 158 games, had 745 plate appearances and 661 at-bats. He also scored 129 runs, with 183 hits, 38 home runs, 92 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.

Three weeks ago, Cleveland manager Terry Francona was talking about his shortstop, as it became more and more clear that the club was getting ready to move him.

“We all know Frankie is an unbelievable — not only an unbelievable player, but an unbelievable person — and we love having him,” Francona said. “Believe me, nobody likes having him more in uniform more than I do, because I make the lineup out.”

Now Lindor will be in a lineup made out by the young manager of the Mets, Luis Rojas. Lindor will be in with Alonso, Michael Conforto, Dom Smith, hitting machine Jeff McNeil and the new Mets catcher, James McCann. Lindor makes the Mets a team to watch again, and who knows, maybe the team to watch in New York City this season. It was that kind of deal that Alderson made on Thursday, for a young star who plays shortstop and just turned 27. Alderson has made big deals before, and so have the Mets. Never has one felt any bigger than this.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.

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