Lindor trade rumors continue to heat up

December 20th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- On Sunday, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti reiterated that he believes will be the Tribe’s Opening Day shortstop in 2020. But will that end up being true?

On Friday morning, Ken Rosenthal joined MLB Network to discuss his report that the Indians have requested each team’s final offers on their All-Star shortstop so they can weigh their options over the weekend.

Later in the day, ESPN's Buster Olney reported a "high-ranking executive" believes both Lindor and superstar right fielder Mookie Betts of the Red Sox will be traded this offseason in order to capitalize on their current value before it depreciates as they get closer and closer to free agency.

While all of this does not mean the Tribe is ready to complete a deal, perhaps if the Indians get a package that they deem acceptable enough to part ways with their 26-year-old superstar, they’d be willing to pull the trigger.

Why set a deadline?

Even if the Indians did request teams’ final offers, it doesn’t mean that all other Lindor talks will end going forward. This soft deadline simply allows them to plan for the remainder of the offseason.

Cleveland needs a second baseman. It also needs some outfield help and maybe another reliever, but adding a second baseman is priority No. 1. When looking at the Indians' current roster, they would be choosing between , who missed the majority of the 2019 season with right forearm tendinitis and hasn’t played since he joined the Tribe in July, and or , and each of the latter two has very limited big league experience.

The Indians could move José Ramírez from third base to second, but the club prefers to leave Ramírez at the hot corner.

The team can’t start shopping the free-agent market for someone like César Hernández until it knows if it could land a better infielder in a Lindor trade. Everyone knows the enormous haul Lindor would require. There could be a quality, Major League-ready infielder included in that mix no matter who the Indians talk to. If they trade Lindor, there’s no need to break the bank on Hernández, assuming they’d fill the hole in the return. It may seem aggressive to hear the Indians are hoping to have their Lindor plans done as early as mid-December, but it’s something that will help them create a better blueprint on how to build their team come January.

If Lindor’s traded, where could he go?

It seems like the final three clubs left standing are the Padres, Reds and Dodgers.

• The Dodgers: The first ask would be for middle infielder Gavin Lux. He’s the Dodgers’ top prospect and No. 2 prospect in MLB according to MLB Pipeline, and he would be a perfect match for the Indians. If the Tribe sent Lindor to Los Angeles for Lux, outfielder Alex Verdugo and another prospect like catcher Keibert Ruiz (No. 3 in Dodgers’ system), the deal would start inching closer to fruition. However, the Dodgers will likely hesitate to give up Lux. That doesn’t mean another deal couldn’t be done: Keep Verdugo and Ruiz in the mix and add in a couple of prospects such as right-hander Dustin May (No. 2) and shortstop Jeter Downs (No. 5) and possibly someone like outfielder Joc Pederson, who is projected to make $8.5 million in his final year of arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

• The Reds: Nick Senzel would certainly be in this deal if the Indians chose to send Lindor down the road. Senzel hit .256 as a rookie last season with a .742 OPS, 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 104 games. Though he played the entire season -- aside from 1 1/3 innings -- in the outfield, Senzel spent the majority of his Minor League career at third base. He’s also had experience at second. He’d give the Indians options, but they’d obviously need more. Jonathan India is another name that’s often been mentioned in hypothetical Lindor trades. The third baseman is the Reds’ No. 3 prospect but has only reached Double-A. With the Tribe’s top prospect, third baseman Nolan Jones, nearing his promotion to Triple-A, it seems like the two would bring similar qualities to the table. The Indians could also get shortstop Freddy Galvis and maybe another prospect thrown into the mix.

• The Padres: Would San Diego be willing to move outfielder Taylor Trammell, whom they received as part of the three-team Trevor Bauer deal last July? Maybe not. The Padres also have prospects like right-hander Luis Patino (MLB’s No. 30 prospect) and shortstop CJ Abrams (No. 45), but Patino is still in Double-A and Abrams was just drafted last year. The Padres just may not have enough to offer to help fill the Indians’ immediate needs.

The verdict

We won’t know if Lindor will be in Cleveland come Opening Day until we finally reach March 26. But, with early speculation as these final offers come rolling in, clubs could be tentative to part with the top pieces the Indians would be interested in acquiring.

The Indians rarely budge from their original asking price, and Cleveland knows just how much two years of Lindor is worth. Without someone like Lux from the Dodgers or enough pieces to surround Senzel with the Reds or enough of Major League-ready talent with the Padres, Antonetti could be right after all. The Indians will have to be wowed by an offer to complete the transaction. But from the sound of it, it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait much longer to get an idea of where the Tribe stands.