Here are 4 potential landing spots for Lindor
CLEVELAND -- When Francisco Lindor reflected on the Indians’ final game of the 2020 season a day after his team was eliminated from the postseason, he noted that it crossed his mind it may have been his last with the Tribe.
Is it impossible for Lindor to be back in Cleveland in 2021? No. But MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi has already reported that it’s likely Lindor will be moved by Opening Day, which was the expectation heading into the offseason.
The man known as “Mr. Smile” has become the face of the Indians franchise in his six years with the club. He’s a four-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and two-time Gold Glove Award winner who has posted a career .285 average with an .833 OPS since 2015. But the Indians had a front-row seat last offseason in gauging what the Red Sox went through to trade Mookie Betts with one year of control remaining. Add the financial difficulties from COVID-19 in '20 and the uncertainties of '21 and it can only mean moving Lindor will be that much harder.
But the Indians have stated multiple times that they’ve lost tens of millions of dollars in 2020, which will impact next season’s payroll. With their shortstop expected to make at least $20 million in arbitration, that alone may be too challenging for the team to pay, which makes a trade seem even more likely.
So where could he go? There are a handful of teams who have reportedly shown interest in trading for Lindor. Who are the way-too-early frontrunners, and what do they have to offer? Let’s take a look.
In a climate in which teams may be stingy regarding who they give up or how much they want to spend in any deal, the eagerness of a new Mets owner may be the Tribe’s best bet to get something done. And with the possibility of Indians general manager Mike Chernoff reportedly in the mix for the Mets’ president of baseball operations position, a deal could be even more convenient. But does everything line up?
The Mets are surely ready to start building a strong team, but maybe the club wants to focus on the free-agent market rather than a blockbuster trade. The Indians could have strong interest in outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, the Mets' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, as a long-term option and someone like Jeff McNeil to mix his bat into their lineup. From there, it would depend on how much young talent the Indians could manage to get, as the club is always attempting to build for now and the future.
While every team seems to be attempting to trim its payroll, the Yankees always seem to have the potential for blockbuster deals. With Gleyber Torres at shortstop, the need isn’t dire for Lindor, but depending on the fate of DJ LeMahieu, Torres could shift to second to make room for Lindor. What could the Indians want in return? A familiar face in outfielder Clint Frazier would be an excellent pickup for a team whose outfielders combined to post a .575 OPS in 2020. The Yankees could also include infielder Miguel Andújar, who has some outfield experience, in the deal along with some prospects that could sweeten the deal for the Tribe. But will the Yankees want to focus their attention on a big-name shortstop rather than starting pitching? Maybe not.
What do the Indians need? An outfield bat. What could the Blue Jays give them? Lourdes Gurriel Jr..
Gurriel Jr. fits the bill for exactly what the Indians need: a young, relatively inexpensive outfielder (signed through 2023) with some pop. In 57 games in '20, he hit 11 homers with 33 RBIs, 14 doubles and an .882 OPS (138 OPS+). But the Blue Jays may be hesitant to part ways with someone under such a long contract. Teoscar Hernández is another powerful bat that had a breakout year in '20, and he could pique the Indians’ interest as well.
The Phillies have been mentioned in the early offseason rumors a few times; however, the big question is whether Philadelphia would have enough impact players to send back to Cleveland in return for Lindor. There aren’t many big league options that would make sense for the Indians, and an all-Minor Leaguer return for someone like Lindor may not be enough to get Cleveland to bite. Maybe the two can work out the missing piece before Opening Day.