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If Lindor's traded, here are 4 potential landing spots

@MandyBell02
November 14, 2019

CLEVELAND – “My expectation is Frankie will be the shortstop Opening Day next year.” It’s early in the offseason, and the Francisco Lindor trade rumors are only just beginning. The Tribe’s front office knew that there would be no avoiding the conversation at this week’s GM Meetings in Arizona, but

CLEVELAND – “My expectation is Frankie will be the shortstop Opening Day next year.”

It’s early in the offseason, and the Francisco Lindor trade rumors are only just beginning. The Tribe’s front office knew that there would be no avoiding the conversation at this week’s GM Meetings in Arizona, but team president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti expressed his confidence in Lindor being in Cleveland next year to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ll stay away from any specifics,” Antonetti said on Tuesday. “What I would say is that I think Frankie is one of the best players in baseball, and we’re really fortunate to have him. We’ve made attempts to try to extend his future with us. To date, we haven’t been able to overlap on that, but hopefully at some point in the future we’ll be able to find a way to close that gap.”

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But what if they can’t close that gap? There is a more than a realistic possibility that the Indians will not be able to afford the type of contract Lindor’s talent will require. If the Tribe doesn’t trade him this offseason with two years of control remaining, could that mean the Trade Deadline next July will be the target?

The Indians went through a similar scenario last year with starter Trevor Bauer. The righty was involved in numerous trade rumors over the winter, but he wasn’t dealt until the Deadline. Would that be paving the way for Lindor to go through the same process? Not necessarily.

“We’ve had plenty of players here that have played out the entire terms of their contract here, and we didn’t trade them,” Antonetti said. “A lot of that has to do with factors outside of that individual player -- what’s going on with our team, how competitive we are, what’s in front of us, what our alternatives are. I’m not sure I would simplify it like that.”

The Indians are looking to regain control of the American League Central after coming up short for the first time in four years. Though the Twins are coming off an impressive 101-win season, their starting pitching situation leaves the door open for Cleveland to get back on top in 2020.

However, the Tribe’s roster also has holes that must be filled. A Lindor trade now would not only help address those immediate needs, but it could also lead to an elite team in the future given the return the club would receive, as MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince explained this week.

At this time, the odds are in favor of Lindor arriving in Goodyear, Ariz., with the Tribe midway through February. But the front office will do its due diligence, fielding all inquiries that come its way. Let’s take a look at which clubs could be most likely to check on Lindor and what they could offer:

Dodgers

If the Indians decide to move their star shortstop, Los Angeles seems to be the leading contender to acquire him. The calendar hadn’t yet flipped to November before the Dodgers began getting linked to Lindor. The likelihood of this deal actually coming to fruition increases if the Dodgers would be willing to include Gavin Lux -- their top prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Lux is a middle infielder who played in 23 big league games in September and got nine at-bats in the National League Division Series. In 49 Triple-A games, the 21-year-old hit .392 with a 1.197 OPS, 13 homers and 39 RBIs. He and the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect, right-hander Dustin May, would be difficult to pry away from L.A., but that certainly won’t stop the Indians from asking.

Reds

Cincinnati could use a bat like Lindor’s, but are they willing to go big enough to land him? The Reds and Indians just went through this process with Bauer back in July. This time, Cincinnati may not have enough to make it happen.

The Reds have a few intriguing trade chips, but none that fits perfectly into the Tribe’s plans. One would be Aristides Aquino, a 25-year-old right fielder who batted .299/.356/.636 with 28 home runs in 78 Triple-A games and .259/.316/.576 with 19 home runs in 56 Major League games last season. If the Indians want to give Franmil Reyes time in right field -- and with their No. 16 overall prospect, Daniel Johnson -- a call away, right field could become crowded quickly. If Aquino came to Cleveland, Johnson would have to move to left and Reyes would be the everyday DH.

The Reds could also offer up their top infield prospect, third baseman Jonathan India, but that would collide with the Tribe’s plans to get their own top prospect, Nolan Jones, at the hot corner. Cincinnati would have to get crafty -- even more than they did in the three-team deal to get Bauer -- in order to find a deal worthy of Lindor. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try.

Yankees

We all know Indians fans don’t want to see Lindor go, especially if he went to the Yankees. With New York’s focus primarily on starting pitching this offseason, it’s unlikely that Lindor would be at the top of the Yanks' priority list, but it’d be surprising if they didn’t at least call.

The Indians need a replacement for Jason Kipnis at second base. José Ramírez will either stay at third or move to second, depending on what the Tribe does this offseason. The Yankees currently have an extra third baseman in Miguel Andújar, who missed nearly all of 2019 with a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in May. And the Indians want to get Jones at third base as soon as possible (after he gets some time in Triple-A). That would mean Andújar would only be needed temporarily. The Yankees have recently thrown around the idea of moving Andújar to the outfield, which -- if such a position switch were a viable option -- could make the Indians more interested in such a deal.

Two major problems still remain: The Yankees may not have much else that will satisfy the Indians’ needs, and the Tribe may think twice about sending their All-Star shortstop to a perennial AL contender.

Phillies

It’s likely that the Phillies would be interested in Lindor, but they are more of a long shot to actually get the deal done. Philadelphia has a strong motivation to win now, but its farm system likely wouldn’t draw much of Cleveland’s attention. The Phillies could move Jean Segura to second or third to make room for Lindor and offer up any of their top three prospects: first/third baseman Alec Bohm, right-hander Spencer Howard or shortstop Bryson Stott (their 2019 first-round pick). Two years of Lindor could be enough to make the Phillies go big, but if the deal isn’t exactly what the Indians want (from any team), Lindor will be sporting the block-lettered “C” on his hat in 2020.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.