Rumors have recently surfaced about the Indians trading their star shortstop Francisco Lindor before the start of the 2020 season, with a few teams specifically in the mix. In this article, I will outline some reasonable packages for Lindor, and what Cleveland should be asking for from each of his suitors.
First, is trading Lindor even a good idea? Well, it depends. Lindor is set to be a free agent following the 2021 season, giving Cleveland two more years of their superstar if they elect not to trade him, barring any extension of course. Trading him could yield a king’s ransom, but is trading your best player really a good idea for a win-now team? The problem, as it almost always is with the Indians, is ownership. Paul Dolan infamously said “enjoy him” to the fans during an interview last offseason in regards to Lindor’s future with the team, but time can change things. If Dolan becomes willing to give Lindor the massive extension that his play warrants, it would be hard to say that trading him is still the better option. While keeping Lindor in an Indians uniform for the entirety of his career is ideal for most fans, the state of the organization and past behavior would suggest that is probably the least likely outcome.
For fans that are discouraged by Cleveland’s inability to retain their superstar long term, this offseason is a great time to trade the shortstop if that is what the team decides to do. Again, Lindor still has two years of club control left, and that number will only decrease without an extension. Every game that Lindor plays for the Indians from this point forward is most likely hurting his trade value, as every game he plays for Cleveland is a game he doesn’t play for the team he is traded to. If the Indians were to wait until next offseason, Lindor becomes a one year rental. The teams most mentioned in trade rumors are teams that would certainly extend him if acquired, but regardless he will never have as much trade value as he does now.
So, we’ve established that trading Francisco Lindor is a reasonable route to take. Now, what does a trade for Lindor look like; most importantly, what do the Indians get in return? Without further ado, here are reasonable trade packages that Cleveland should look into acquiring.
Braves Acquire: SS Francisco Lindor
Indians Acquire: SS Dansby Swanson OF Cristian Pache, OF Drew Waters
Rationale: The Braves are in a total win-now situation, so it makes little sense for them to want to deal any of their young major league talent in a deal for Lindor. Regardless, this is still a high price to pay. Pache and Waters are the top two prospects in the Braves system via MLB Pipeline, and Swanson is their starting shortstop coming off of a solid year. This is probably an offer the Indians would (or at least should) accept without much hesitation. Offensive production from the outfield has been what has plagued this Indians team for years, and Cleveland gets two very highly rated outfield prospects that played in AAA in 2019. Not to mention, they get a serviceable shortstop to replace Lindor. For the Braves, this is a deal they take only if they believe Lindor puts them over the top for 2020 and 2021. Also, they already have their 21 year old outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. under contract for much of the rest of his career at a discount, so that gives them more flexibility to extend Lindor. This is about as good of a package as Cleveland could want, and if Atlanta thinks Lindor will yield them a Commissioner’s Trophy, they just might make it happen.
Los Angeles Angels
Angels Acquire: SS Francisco Lindor, C Roberto Perez
Indians Acquire: SS Andrelton Simmons, OF Jo Adell, RHP Kyle Bradish
Quite possibly the two best defensive shortstops in baseball would get swapped in this deal, but Lindor obviously brings much more value with his bat. This is again a fantastic return for Cleveland. Simmons might be lackluster offensively, but the Indians wouldn’t lose a step up the middle as the best defensive shortstop in baseball would be coming to Cleveland. The offensive gap would be filled by outfielder Jo Adell, one of the highest ranked prospects in baseball. Adell projects to be a very valuable player in the bigs, and he plays the position with the biggest holes in Cleveland. As a throw-in, the Indians get right-hander Kyle Bradish, who currently ranks 21st in the Angels prospects rankings via MLB Pipeline. Bradish didn’t pitch particularly well in his first year of professional baseball, but he is a 2018 4th round pick and the Cleveland organization has been good at developing pitching talent in recent years. For the Angels, they’ve just hired Joe Maddon, who expects to win 90+ games in year one. Little could aid that cause more than a top ten player in Lindor. The Angels also get a catcher in Roberto Perez who was defensively one of the best in baseball behind the plate in 2019. It feels like a coincidence of wants that hinges almost entirely on whether the Angels are willing to deal their stud prospect in Adell.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodgers Acquire: SS Francisco Lindor
Indians Acquire: SS Gavin Lux, 1B/2B Max Muncy
The Dodgers have already been explicitly mentioned in Lindor trade rumors, so it is likely that Chris Antonetti gets a call from LA at some point soon. Including a shortstop in this deal is a no-brainer for the Dodgers, as they have both Lux and Corey Seager. Seager would probably be the preferred piece to go in this trade from the Dodgers side, but the Indians would most likely value the prospect with more club control over the established player. While Lux is good, he doesn’t warrant a 1-for-1 trade for a top ten player in baseball. The Dodgers would have to throw in another substantial piece, and Cleveland would probably want a phenomenal bat over adding to their abundance of pitching. Muncy has been among the league’s best in the last two seasons, and his ability to play second base upon the likely departure of Jason Kipnis works perfectly for the Indians in the short-run. With the combination of a top hitter in Muncy and a prospect who would be Lindor’s immediate successor at shortstop, the Indians likely pull the trigger on this deal. For the Dodgers, they upgrade their team for the immediate future, the time in which they hope to finally win the World Series. They also would almost certainly extend Lindor, so the deal provides long term value for both sides.
New York Yankees
Yankees Acquire: SS Francisco Lindor
Indians Acquire: SS Gleyber Torres, OF Jasson Dominguez
After Gleyber Torres’ 2019 postseason performance, Yankees fans aren’t going to want to see this happen. However, Torres was not at Lindor’s level of production in 2019, and he doesn’t project to ever get there. Torres might very well be able to match Lindor’s bat, but Lindor’s glove is in a different stratosphere. So if Lindor is so much better, why do the Indians do this? We’ve established that the Indians aren’t likely to extend Lindor, and they probably wouldn’t extend Torres either. However, Torres isn’t a free agent until after the 2024 season, while Lindor only has two more years of control. This makes this a favorable deal for Cleveland. The Yankees would also likely agree to these terms, considering that they are upgrading at the position and they would certainly extend Lindor after trading for him. The other piece Cleveland recieves is Jasson Dominguez who, while arguably the most promising international prospect to sign in the last year, is only 16 years old. It’s a very high ceiling player that Cleveland gets, but the Yankees wouldn’t lose sleep over dealing their teenage prospect if they’re getting Francisco Lindor, an established star, in return.
Tampa Bay Rays
Rays Acquire: SS Francisco Lindor
Indians Acquire: SS Wander Franco
The Rays are the only team on this list that would almost certainly not extend Francisco Lindor. This trade would only happen if Tampa is fairly sure they would win the World Series in one of the two years they have Lindor. On its face, this seems to be a steal for Tampa as Franco is completely unproven. However, both of these organizations likely value the player with more years of club control. Also, based on his current play in the minor leagues, it looks like Franco could be just as good as Lindor down the road. If Tampa Bay decided they wanted to completely go for it, this is a trade they likely accept. In any other scenario, however, there’s very little chance it would happen.
At the end of the day, Cleveland not trading Lindor and just letting him walk in free agency in two years is as likely a scenario as any, but as an Indians fan I’d like to ignore that possibility. Lindor only brings two years of control, but he is one of the most valuable players in baseball, and teams that can extend him should be willing to put a lot on the table to get him. It isn’t likely that Cleveland gets another player like Lindor any time soon, but if they decide to part ways, they should do so this offseason.
Feature Image: Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr