The electricity is on in New York.
The heat is on in Philadelphia.
Baseball's sleepy winter received a jolt of electricity when the New York Mets acquired superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.
The move, along with others the Mets have made this winter, and with more— maybe a big one — that could possibly come, should turn that club into a serious playoff contender in 2021 and beyond.
Previously this offseason, the Mets added catcher James McCann and reliever Trevor May, both free agents, and they acquired a very good starting pitcher in Carlos Carrasco along with Lindor in the deal that sent four young players to the cost-cutting Indians. Carrasco could slot into the second or third spot in the Mets' rotation behind Jacob deGrom, one of the game's best starters and true aces.
Oh, there could be more.
The Mets, led by Steve Cohen, their deep-pocketed and championship-hungry new owner, have been pursuing free-agent centerfielder George Springer and there's still a chance they could get him and his brilliant postseason resume. Lindor, who will play at 27 in 2021, will be a free agent after the season. You don't trade for a player like that without being confident you can extend his contract. The potential of having middle-of-the-field strength led by Lindor and Springer for the next handful of years should make Mets fans quite happy.
And it should scare Phillies fans just a little.
The Braves have won the last two NL East titles and they're still the team to beat in the division, but the Mets, whose roster was already dotted with talent, are better, much better, the Nationals still have starting pitching and the Marlins — how could we forget? — were a playoff team in 2020.
As for the local nine?
"The Phillies aren't terrible," host Chris Russo said on MLB Network on Thursday afternoon.
Uh. Not exactly the basis for an advertising campaign.
The Mets' trade for Lindor will ramp up the heat on the Phillies to get a deal done with J.T. Realmuto. Club officials have said re-signing the All-Star catcher was a priority and new team president Dave Dombrowski has expressed his affection for the player.
The market for Realmuto appears to be cooperating with the Phillies. For starters, he's still out there on this slow-moving free agent bus and the roof-rocking deal he was said to be seeking might not present itself in the COVID world. Don't misunderstand. Realmuto is still going to get paid. But maybe he's only going to get stupid money instead of ridiculously, crazy stupid money, and maybe, just maybe, he ends up right back in Philadelphia. Who knows, maybe the soft market brings Didi Gregorius right back to Philadelphia, too. Then Dombrowski and Sam Fuld need only to hit on a couple of roll-of-the-dice relievers and maybe the Phillies, who still have Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm — in other words, good players — can be better than "not terrible."
With a new front office and all the financial uncertainty in the game (on top of pandemic-related revenue losses, there could be labor trouble when the CBA expires later this year), the Phillies were looking at a bit of a transition year in 2021. That still applies. But with the possibility that fans, in some number, could return to the seats at some point in the season, it's important that the Phils remain attractive and competitive in the early season to give fans a reason to come, if and when the gates open.
In other words, they need to be better than "not terrible" in a division that got a lot better Thursday and still could continue to do so as this sleepy winter begins to stir.