Lindor staying? Tribe weighs in from Meetings

December 10th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- From the day the Indians’ season ended in September, the club’s front office has indicated it prefers to keep All-Star shortstop in Cleveland until at least the 2020 season. And even with all the general managers together in San Diego for the Winter Meetings, the Tribe’s outlook seems unchanged.

There is no hiding that the phones of Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff are constantly ringing from clubs likely checking in on Lindor’s availability, but the narrative of the rumors has started to shift.

At the beginning of the offseason, Lindor’s name was linked to the Dodgers and reports were the shortstop was expected to be moved before next season. But as MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported on Monday, word is spreading that the club wants to hold on to Lindor for another year.

“There’s nothing we need to do with any player,” Antonetti said. “Frankie has established himself as one of the best players in baseball and we’re fortunate to have him. Because he’s such a good player, a lot of teams call with interest.”

Logistically, a Lindor trade makes sense this offseason. He has two years of club control remaining before he hits free agency, which could get the Tribe an enormous haul in return. As we’re seeing with Mookie Betts this offseason, holding on to Lindor for another year might not benefit the club much if it targets the following winter to move him.

“Yeah, we have to weigh all of those things,” Antonetti said. “The anticipated term in which a player is under control with us is a consideration as we weigh trade alternatives. That doesn’t mean and necessarily dictate any one outcome. There are plenty of times when players have played out their entire contracts with us. There are times we’ve traded them with a year left. There are times players have been traded with a half-season left. It’s really dependent upon not only the specifics of that particular player, but our team in general.”

Sure, the front office will have the team’s greater good in mind when it comes to making a Lindor trade, but keeping one of the best players in the game (not to mention the face of their franchise) seems to be high on the Indians’ list. However, if they receive the perfect offer this winter -- especially one that would include Gavin Lux from the Dodgers -- they could easily bite, even if they are leaning toward holding on to Lindor.

“A lot of the same reasons our fans develop affection and connections with our players are the same reasons we do,” Antonetti said. “And maybe in some cases, we even develop a stronger bond because we’re around them every day. So there’s always that personal and emotional element. We’re talking about players that have become, in a lot of cases, very important parts of our lives. So when you contemplate trades for those, it can be emotional and difficult, but we still have to make sure we’re doing what we feel is in the best interest of the team and the organization to help field the best team possible.”

Cleveland has holes in its lineup that need to be filled to come back ready to regain control of the American League Central in 2020, and a Lindor trade would be the easiest way to kill all birds with one stone. But if that isn’t the team’s top option, other routes need to be explored.

On Monday, Antonetti and Co. clarified that they’d prefer to leave José Ramírez at third base rather than moving him to second. So they’ll either need to rely on Christian Arroyo or Mike Freeman at second base or check in with free agents like Jonathan Schoop, Scooter Gennett, Brian Dozier or César Hernández, among others. Or maybe they once again tap into their endless line of starting pitching.

Corey Kluber’s name will pop up in trade rumors, however his injury-filled 2019 may not prompt clubs to give up what the Indians would want in return for the two-time Cy Young Award winner. This may put more eyes on Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Scott Moss or Logan Allen to help address some needs on the roster. The Tribe proved as recently as July that they can move a solid arm like Trevor Bauer to bring in assets like Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig. They definitely have room to do it again.

“I think those are things we have to be open to,” Antonetti said. “Our goal is to build the best Major League team we can and do that for as long as we can. So if there are places where we have some depth that we can potentially trade to improve ourselves at other positions, we’ll always explore those opportunities.”