Inbox: What's in store for Lindor?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell answers questions from Indians fans

October 28th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Last year, and were the headline rumors at Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip for the 2018 Winter Meetings. Now, has the chance to be Kluber’s next co-star.

Though his season-ending right forearm fracture and left oblique strain definitely took a toll on his trade value, there’s a decent chance Kluber could be heard among the whispers this December in San Diego. It also may be the year that his teammate, the four-time All-Star shortstop, will also be mentioned.

Lindor has two years of arbitration remaining, including this offseason. With two promised seasons before becoming a free agent, the man known as “Mr. Smile” could bring in a herd of talent for the Tribe if they would decide to trade him. Is it likely to happen? Let’s take a look in this week’s Inbox.

The Indians like to keep the majority of their plans behind closed doors, but the one thing the front office made clear at the end of this season was that it’s trying to find a way to keep Lindor in Cleveland long-term.

Sure, the Lindor trade rumors could start happening this winter. However, it doesn’t seem likely that the Tribe will move him before Opening Day. It’s easier to envision that move coming -- if it does happen -- at least at next year’s Trade Deadline or later. As an early guess, Lindor will be with the Indians throughout the entire 2020 season, but his future is still mostly up in the air.

“Frankie’s one of the best players in the game,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “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.”

The only perk of moving the shortstop this soon would be the insane haul the Indians could get in return for two years of Lindor control. Waiting another year would bring a slightly less insane load. They could agree on an extension, or they could ride out his time in Cleveland until the very end. After the two parties settled on a $10.55 million deal last year without needing an arbitration hearing, Lindor said a contract extension wasn’t on his mind.

“When it comes to long-term deals, I love the city of Cleveland,” Lindor said in February. “I love everything about Cleveland. ... We’ll see what happens. At the end of the day, I’m playing the game to win. This is a good place where I can win, so we’ll see. If the Indians come up with the right numbers and at some point it happens -- which, I’m not even thinking about it -- we’ll see.”

Absolutely. With a rotation of Kluber, , , and Zach Plesac/Aaron Civale, it’s hard not to -- at the very least -- stay competitive. The Indians could take a peek at the second/third base free-agent market, shop one of their plethora of starting pitchers (not necessarily Kluber) or rely on up-and-coming big leaguers like Nolan Jones or Daniel Johnson (the Indians' Nos. 1 and 16 prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline) at some point in the season to be successful without losing any of the listed players.

It’s also not a guarantee that the Twins come back just as strong as they were this year. Of their five-man rotation, only José Berríos is a lock for next year. Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda and Martín Pérez (if they don’t exercise his $7.5 million option) will all be free agents. That at least opens the door back up for the Indians to reclaim the American League Central next year.

After suffering a torn ACL in his right knee that will sideline him until April at the earliest, could be a non-tender candidate, but it’s more than likely that he’ll be back with the Tribe in 2020.

A way-too-early prediction would be that will be given a chance to earn the right field spot at the start of the season, meaning Johnson would begin with Triple-A. Eventually, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Reyes slide back into his designated hitter role more often than being in the field. It will be at that point that Johnson could get his first call up to the big leagues, especially depending on the production level of players like , and/or .

A lot of this will revolve around how well his right thumb heals after the surgery he underwent last week. Right now, the Indians are expecting Jones to be unrestricted at the start of Spring Training. But the team’s No. 1 prospect has yet to see a pitch in Triple-A. He’ll need some time with Columbus before he makes it up to the Tribe, and that ETA will be influenced by whether they have a need at third base. As a general guess, let’s say that arrival may come post All-Star break next year.