CLEVELAND -- Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said he spent about one percent of his offseason paying attention to trade rumors, but the four-time All-Star didn’t need more time than that to know he was thrown in the Hot Stove spotlight. And he shouldn’t expect that attention to go away any time soon.
Lindor is under team control through the end of the 2021 season. But will he remain a part of the organization until he hits free agency? If he does, what’s next? The front office has previously mentioned that it’s constantly trying to come up with ways to keep its shortstop in Cleveland beyond the next two seasons.
“Frankie’s one of the best players in the game,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said at the beginning of the offseason. “That’s clear and he’s demonstrated that over the past few years. He has every reason to expect that he should be compensated that way. What that means for us in team building, we’ll continue to try to find ways to make that work and stay engaged with him, thinking about ways of how do we solve the problem of keeping him here for the rest of his career. Whether or not we can line up on that, I have no idea.”
Lindor and the Indians were able to avoid arbitration this year, agreeing to a one-year, $17 million contract, but the shortstop was asked Saturday afternoon why they haven’t been able to land on a multiyear deal.
“Because they haven’t offered me the right thing,” Lindor said.
What that magic number may be is still unknown, but the 26-year-old said a main focus of his will be signing a contract that will keep him in the game for a long period of time.
“Do I feel like when I'm 37, am I gonna be down with my playing level? No, I don't think so,” Lindor said. “Is there a right number for me right now? I haven't really thought about it. I'm not there yet. I'm going to worry about what I got in front of my toes. A lot of money sounds pretty right now. Everything sounds pretty. A lot of years sound pretty, too. At the end of the day, it's about what's best for me, my family, and also the Indians' organization.”
There’s no secret that Indians fans want to see their beloved shortstop stay in Cleveland for as long as possible. But the closer he gets to free agency, the less likely it becomes for him to sign an extension that would be considered “club-friendly.” The team’s payroll is currently less than $100 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, down from roughly $120 million on Opening Day a year ago, and there is a growing belief in the industry that Lindor will test free agency two years from now.
“If they don't think I can stay here because of the money situation, then I won't be here,” Lindor said. “But I do want to be in Cleveland. I love the Indians, I love their fans. The city has grown on me a lot. When it is the right time to sign an extension? I don't know when it's the right time. God has a plan for me and my family and I truly believe in it. What's going to happen is going to happen. Do I want $500 million? Of course, anybody wants that. I don't care who you are, you could be a billionaire and you'd still want that. It's just a matter of time, we'll see.”
A lot of the attention has been put on Lindor’s worth. When looking at the big contracts handed out over the last few years, including Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies or Manny Machado’s 10-year, $300-million deal with the Padres last offseason, Lindor will likely find himself in similar territory when he hits free agency. Though he wants to make sure it’s clear that, no matter where he ends up, this isn’t just about his salary.
“This is not a thing about pride or money,” Lindor said. “Just like a team would not pay $60 million for a player, no player wants to play at the league minimum for the rest of their career. It’s not about that. I’m not money-driven. I’m championship-driven. That’s what I want.
“Wherever I go, I want to win. I want to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland. This is what I want to do. That’s my mission. I’m here today and I want to win for the Indians. It has nothing to do with the money. It has nothing to do with the years. It has nothing to do with who I like or who I don’t like. It has to do with championships. The front office tries to put a team together to win, not to save money. They’re supposed to try to put a team together to win. I’m here to try to win.”