Francisco Lindor is reportedly on the trade block this winter while his value is at its highest, and these teams need to make an offer for the Cleveland Indians’ superstar shortstop.
Since last offseason, there have been rumblings out of Cleveland that the small-market Indians are ready to start selling off a few of their high-priced assets and focus on the future. The Indians are in that tricky, in-between ground for teams that cannot afford to spend with the big boys.
They’re not out of the hunt by any means, but have seen their window to win a World Series come closer and closer to slamming shut. A team like the Indians cannot throw a few extra million at their problems to keep the window propped open.
The first signs that the Indians were thinking about making their stars available came around this time last year when starters Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber were quietly being shopped. Ultimately, both began the year with the Indians, but Bauer was traded at the deadline. Kluber is back for at least one more season in Cleveland after missing almost all of 2019 due to injury.
Last winter was just the warmup to what may be coming next for the Indians on the trade front. All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor is next up on the block. Entering his age-26 season and two years away from free agency, the owner of two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers is on track for his own $300-million contract to rival Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
The Indians know they won’t be able to afford to keep Lindor, and they are coming off a year in which they missed the playoffs and slid behind the Minnesota Twins, who have more young talent, in the division.
Lindor has developed into a true superstar, hitting .288/.347/.493 with 130 home runs, 384 RBI and 93 stolen bases in five seasons. He has averaged 42 doubles, 34 home runs, 85 RBI and 21 stolen bases over the last three years.
The rationale for the Indians is that their hopes of getting back to the playoffs in 2020 hinge primarily on their dominant starting pitching. That’s the team’s strength, and the rotation is good enough when at its best to carry a team without Lindor to the playoffs.
The Indians don’t have to be in a hurry to make a deal, as they still have two full years, but if they get blown away with an offer from one of these five teams, they’d be wise to pull the trigger and make the trade.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
The Indians are considering trading their generational superstar because they know they won’t be able to afford him in two years. The Rays had the lowest payroll in the league in 2019 by nearly $10 million and spent less than $65 million on a roster that won 96 games and nearly upset the Houston Astros in the ALDS.
Surely this can’t be a potential trade match? Hear me out.
The Rays are positioned extremely well to just keep doing what they’re doing next year and return to the playoffs. Boston and Cleveland both hitting the reset button knocks two potential contenders out of the way and gives Tampa Bay a smooth path back to the playoffs. Just getting there, however, should not be enough for the Rays.
It will take more than the status quo for the Rays to win the World Series. They need to really push their chips to the middle of the table and go all in on the next two years. The Rays can do that by agreeing to pay whatever arbitration bill comes with Francisco Lindor’s final two years of team control. This is an extreme longshot, but don’t rule something crazy like this out completely. When a superstar is on the block, anything can happen.