CLEVELAND -- Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor drew a walk in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against the Yankees on Wednesday night just before Cesar Hernandez knocked in the go-ahead run. But just moments later, Lindor watched his season come to a screeching halt as Brad Hand blew the save opportunity in the ninth.
Lindor and the rest of the Tribe were forced to watch the Yankees go through their celebratory handshake line after closer Aroldis Chapman -- a familiar foe from the 2016 World Series -- shut down the offense in the bottom of the final frame.
Could that be Lindor’s final memory as a Cleveland Indian?
“If I say it hasn’t crossed my mind, I’d be lying. Because on social media, that’s what everybody is talking about, and that’s what you’ve been talking about for the last year,” Lindor said. “So yeah, it has crossed my mind, but I haven’t really thought about it deeply enough to say, ‘Wow, this could actually be my last game.’”
The 26-year-old is set to hit free agency after the 2021 season. But with one year of arbitration remaining, the Indians and Lindor have both been transparent that their negotiations in a possible contract extension have not been able to line up. Assuming the two sides won’t be able to land on a figure that satisfies both parties in the coming months, the Indians have two options: Trade Lindor this offseason to get some talent in return or let him ride out his time in Cleveland before he walks into free agency.
The Indians have certainly showed that they're not afraid to move some of their biggest names, trading starters Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger all in the last two seasons. So, does it shock Lindor that his name is constantly being brought up in trade rumors?
“No, I’m not surprised,” Lindor said. “It makes sense. … It’s the reputation that the organization has. It is what it is. But on the other hand, I can’t control the future, I can’t control the moves the organization makes. What I am in control of is how happy I am and how hard I work.”
It can be difficult for clubs to get the return they’d be looking for in trading a player with only one year of control remaining, and it may be even more difficult this offseason when franchises are trying to calculate their financial losses due to COVID-19 shortening the season.
After the Red Sox traded outfielder Mookie Betts -- who had just one year of arbitration remaining -- to the Dodgers last offseason, Los Angeles inked him to a 12-year, $365 million contract extension. And while Lindor has watched what happened to a player in a similar situation as he’s about to go through from afar, he’s not expecting Betts’ contract to set the precedent of what his should look like.
“When I see a contract like Mookie Betts, it makes me extremely happy and extremely excited for him and for his family, and that's about it,” Lindor said. “Because to sit back and say, 'Well, Mookie got $340 [million] or $370 [million], something like that, oh, I should be getting $320 [million],' no. I can't really sit here and say. 'Well, because of Mookie, now I deserve this.' No. No, because I'm Francisco Lindor and I have plenty of things to worry about it, and that's not what could happen in 2022. There's still a lot of time, still a lot of days, still a lot of games.
“Since I was a little kid, my dad always said to me, 'Worry about the present, don't worry about the future. The future will take care of itself with the things you do in the present.'”
Lindor’s focus is on the present, which involves getting over a painful loss after the Tribe fought back numerous times against the Yankees on Wednesday. It was a season that ended playing for acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr., as Terry Francona missed all but 14 games due to health concerns. The shortstop had his worst offensive year (though it was shortened), hitting .258 with a .750 OPS in 60 games and went 1-for-8 in two games against the Yankees in the postseason.
“I could have done better to help the team,” Lindor said. “If I hit a little bit better and make better plays, we probably would have won the division.”
Maybe that will be the way the legacy ends of the happy-go-lucky, smiling shortstop that quickly won over Indians fans’ hearts since his rookie year in 2015. But Lindor said he would love the chance to be back in Cleveland in '21.
“I would be extremely happy,” Lindor said. “I love Cleveland. I love the people here. I love the front office and the coaching staff, the players, everybody that comes out. They develop players the right way. They do everything right here. It’s a class-act organization. I have much respect and much love for it.”
Does he think it will happen?
“I don’t know. I’m not good with odds,” Lindor said with a large grin. “Let’s see … 99 percent [chance] I come back.”