Amid a historic amount of uncertainty throughout the league and world, one things has felt pretty darn clear: The Cleveland Indians are going to try hard to trade Francisco Lindor before Opening Day.
They already tried aggressively to trade him last offseason (that’s sort of their M.O. with all pricey stars on expiring contracts), and just about every single input into that decision has likely increased their motivation to get something done.
Putting that another way: The Indians didn’t want to pay Lindor for 2020 before their revenues were devastated by COVID-19, so how do you think they feel now that 2021 could be just as brutal *and* Lindor is on pace for a raise via arbitration? Throw in the fact that this offseason is their second-to-last chance to trade him, and a deal before Opening Day feels like a safe bet (the mid-season Trade Deadline is the Indians final opportunity for a deal, but it comes with a whole lot of additional risk for injury and/or underperformance, as well as a reduction in value).
But in case you STILL wanted some additional confirmation, here you go:
Cleveland, strapped for money, intend to trade All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor by opening day, several rival teams have been informed. Lindor earned $17.5 million last season and is projected to earn about $21 million in salary arbitration in his final year before free agency
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 5, 2020
Other clubs fully expecting Indians to be aggressive in trading Lindor this winter. Confirming @BNightengale report.
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) November 5, 2020
These are hardly the first – or only – reporters to suggest as much, but we’d be silly to ignore more evidence just because it aligns with what we already expected. Needless to repeat: The Cleveland Indians are going to try their best to trade Francisco Lindor this offseason.
For what it’s worth, MLB Trade Rumors is projected a final arbitration salary between $17.5M and $21.5M for 2021, which makes him a lot more affordable than Mookie Betts was when the Red Sox traded him last year in his final season of team control ($27M). Of course, Betts projected to be a little more impactful overall and the entire financial world has been flipped on its head since last offseason.
With that said, Betts also came with the baggage of David Price’s contract, upping the financial burden of the deal. There are a few other ways to compare the Betts deal with a theoretical Lindor deal (both are/were 26-year-old, extremely marketable superstars coming off All-Star seasons with one final year of team control), but the financial crunch and change in value for young, affordable talent probably makes any efforts pretty futile. You’re going to be doing a lot of guessing at this point.
In fact, at the end of the day, there are probably only so many teams who could even conceivably fit Lindor into their 2021 budget, let alone do so while parting with young, long-term talent. It’d be a dream move for the Cubs, especially if they could extend him thereafter (and especially considering their current hole at second base and expected holes at shortstop and third base after this season), but I struggle to see how that happens without significant changes elsewhere – the sort of changes that might make trading for Lindor in 2021 counterproductive in the first place.
In any case, Lindor will be on the move this offseason and it should be an interesting storyline to follow.