'Respect and love': Lindor thanks Cleveland

January 11th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- sat in front of his computer with a Mets hat on his head and his famous smile across his face. In his first time addressing the media as a member of the Mets, Lindor was asked how he could best say goodbye to the only professional organization he had known.

“Oh man, it’s really hard,” Lindor said. “Cleveland is home ... or was home.”

Lindor admitted that he had been thinking about the inevitable trade throughout this offseason, and he said the same after the Indians were eliminated from the 2020 postseason. The four-time All-Star shortstop had heard the trade rumors before, but this time, the writing was on the wall. And last week, the rumors turned into reality when he got the call that he had been traded along with teammate Carlos Carrasco to the Mets.

“There was a lot of mixed feelings,” Lindor said. “You know, there was definitely a lot of mixed feelings where Cleveland was home, I love Cleveland, the people of Cleveland have treated me well, [it's] a great organization. I have nothing but respect and love for all of them. The fans were great the time I was there.

“But also, there’s been so much excitement about the Mets that I couldn't help myself to be extremely excited, to be happy. This is a new opportunity for me, my family, and I’m blessed. I’m blessed to be able to play the greatest game out there in probably the biggest city in the world, and one of the most fun cities in the world.”

Cleveland’s 2011 first-round Draft pick quickly turned into the face of its franchise just a few years later. “Mr. Smile” captivated audiences with his fun-loving personality and his talents -- both offensively and defensively -- and morphed into a star. But as free agency grew closer, the reality started to set in that this wouldn’t be a long-term marriage.

The Indians and Lindor attempted to agree to an extension as recently as last Spring Training, but when the two sides presented their best offers and they weren’t able to agree, the Tribe had two options: Keep Lindor through the 2021 season and let him walk into free agency, or trade him to get some talent in return.

“I mean, for a long time, I thought that the Indians could hold onto me,” Lindor said. “So I mean, it was just they didn’t come up with the number and I don’t know how to put this one. Their resources, maybe they didn’t have it. But I’m excited that I’m in a place that’s ready to go win, and I’m looking forward to it.”

“Reasonable people can have reasonable perspectives and still not agree on things,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “I don’t begrudge Frankie for anything. He worked his tail off to become one of the best players in baseball at a really young age. He has established himself as one of, not only the best baseball players, but the best people in the game and he represents everything that’s great about the game. He has the expectation that he should be compensated like that, and that’s certainly his prerogative and I completely understand that and don’t begrudge him at all for it.

"But just to be able to align what he was able to accomplish and the player he’s developed into and what those economic expectations are for players like that and try to fit that into our environment and as we plan our team moving forward, we just couldn’t find that right value. It wasn’t because of a lack of interest or lack of appreciation."

Lindor ends his career in Cleveland with a .285/.346/.488 slash line as well as 138 homers, 411 RBIs and 99 stolen bases. From 2016-19, he won two American League Silver Slugger Awards and two AL Gold Glove Awards while hitting .284 with an .841 OPS. He helped the Indians dominate the AL Central from ’16-18, including a .310 average and an .820 OPS in the ’16 postseason that went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series, though he never reached his ultimate goal of winning a World Series championship.

“It hurts every time we lost in the playoffs,” Lindor said. “I still can’t watch the World Series of 2016. It hurts, and it hurts losing. I want to win. The day I win is the day I’ll start watching all my losses.”

Now his focus turns to the Mets. Over the next few weeks, Lindor will likely be engaged in extension talks with a new organization to see if New York could become the new home for him, his financée and his newborn baby girl for longer than just the 2021 season.

“I will miss the people [in Cleveland], how they treated me, how they respected me, and I will miss my teammates,” Lindor said. “That’s the downside of it. But New York is New York. There’s an unlimited amount of resources over there, everything [is now] at the tip of your fingers and I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s a great city for my little girl to grow in.”

But before Lindor could shift all his attention to the Big Apple, he had to figure out a way to say goodbye to the first organization to give him a chance at the big league level.

“The only thing I can say is thank you,” Lindor said. “Thank you for making my life easier. Thank you for just letting me go play baseball and they took care of the rest. ... I really appreciate that from ownership, front office, Chris Antonetti, the coaching staff, the trainers, the strength and conditioning staff, everybody did an outstanding job and they helped me shape me into the man that I am today. They are a big reason why I have success. So I thank them all for letting me be Francisco Lindor.”