Lindor, Cookie sent to Mets in 6-player swap

January 7th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- admitted that he wondered whether he had played his final game in Cleveland after the Indians were eliminated from the 2020 postseason. But little did he know one of his closest teammates would be getting traded with him.

The trade rumors have followed Lindor over the past few offseasons, but on Thursday a deal finally came to fruition, as shortstop Lindor and starter were traded to the Mets in exchange for infielders and , along with two of the Mets’ top-10 prospects, and .

Mets get: SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco
Indians get: INF Andrés Giménez, INF Amed Rosario, RHP Josh Wolf, OF Isaiah Greene

“Really, from the day Francisco arrived in the Major Leagues, he's been part of successful, championship teams,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “And Carlos has developed into one of the most effective, even if underrated starters in the American League. Without both of their contributions I'm not sure we would have had the success we've had over the course of the last eight years.

“I was in tears in the conversations with Carlos and Francisco. I think they were, as well, because we care about each other and they're special people in addition to special players. Trades like this are really, really hard to make. But at the same time, we feel it's the right thing to do for us.”

The long-awaited goodbye to Lindor
With Lindor’s projected salary sitting north of $20 million for 2021 and free agency (where he’ll be looking for a contract out of the Tribe’s planned budget) looming next offseason, it was only a matter of time before he was moved. Add that with an aggressive approach from the Mets’ new ownership and it made a perfect pairing.

Lindor started his career as a 21-year-old in 2015 who captivated baseball audiences with his talent and his jovial personality. The All-Star shortstop ends his career in Cleveland with a .285/.346/.488 slash line as well as 138 homers, 411 RBIs, 99 stolen bases and countless highlight-reel-worthy defensive plays, leaving behind quite the legacy in his six years with the Indians.

Lindor wasted no time in becoming the face of the Indians’ franchise. From 2016-19, he won two AL Silver Slugger Awards and two AL Gold Glove Awards, while hitting .284 with an .841 OPS. He helped the Indians dominate the AL Central from ’16-18, including a .310 average and an .821 OPS in the ’16 postseason that went to Game 7 of the World Series.

But it was that very track record that made it difficult for a small-market team like the Indians to sign Lindor to a long-term extension before he can hit free agency next offseason. When it was clear the two sides wouldn’t be able to come to terms, it became inevitable that Lindor would be moved.

“There were multiple efforts to try to find common ground,” Antonetti said. “We just weren’t able to do that. There’s no fault or no blame. [Indians owner] Paul [Dolan] and the organization stretched as far as it could, and I think Francisco tried to stretch from what his expectations were to find that overlap. We just weren’t able to do it, despite those best intentions.”

Parting ways with Cookie
While Lindor was expected to be on the move this offseason, Carrasco being added into the deal may be more of a shock to Tribe fans. The 33-year-old has been with Cleveland since he made his debut in 2009, owning a 3.77 ERA with a 9.5 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio over 11 seasons.

His “class clown” personality made him a favorite among fans and teammates, whether he was yelling out Justin Bieber lyrics at teammate or fashioning fake GoPro cameras out of Gatorade coolers. But in 2019, he won over the baseball world’s heart when he returned to the mound after a three-month battle with leukemia.

Carrasco was the longest-tenured active member of the Indians before Thursday’s trade. He made three postseason starts for the club.

Adding Carrasco to the deal shows how much the Indians are trying to cut payroll. Without Lindor’s approximate $22 million via salary arbitration for next season and Carrasco’s $12 million, the team’s expected payroll for 2021 drops to approximately $35 million (its lowest since the team opened the 2004 season with a $34.9 million payroll).

“So finances are a component of that, but they weren’t the motivating factor,” Antonetti said. “But what pairing the two -- Francisco and Carlos -- allows us to do is it gives us the financial flexibility to reinvest back in the team that will make us more competitive. And that's what we plan to do.”

The return
New York parted ways with two young infielders in Giménez and Rosario. Giménez, 22, made his Major League debut last season and hit .263 with a .732 OPS, three doubles, two triples, three homers and 12 RBIs in 49 games. He entered the 2020 season as the 84th-ranked prospect in the Majors, according to MLB Pipeline.

“A guy that skipped over Triple-A entirely to debut in the Major Leagues last year and held his own offensively,” Antonetti said. “He's a young, athletic, left-handed-hitting infielder from Venezuela. A great defender at shortstop. Good ability to put the ball in play. We think he's got a chance to develop into a productive Major League hitter.”

Rosario has been the Mets’ primary shortstop for the past four seasons and will likely be taking Lindor’s spot in Cleveland next season. Last year, Rosario hit .252 with a .643 OPS in 46 games, and he ends his four-year stint in New York with a .268/.302/.403 slash line, 32 homers and 148 RBIs. The 25-year-old has had success against lefties, slashing .300/.339/.473 against southpaws in his career.

“Very athletic infielder that has had a history of playing predominantly shortstop but is athletic enough with tools and skills to play a variety of different positions,” Antonetti said. “We think he has a chance to help our Major League team either as a shortstop or as a player that could play multiple positions or settle at a different defensive position. But a guy with great ability.”

Wolf is a 20-year-old right-hander who was ranked No. 9 in the Mets’ farm system, per MLB Pipeline. The Pipeline experts project Wolf to make his Major League debut in 2023 and expect his fastball and curveball to be his future plus pitches. He posted a 3.38 ERA in five starts for the 2019 Gulf Coast League Mets, striking out 36.4 percent of the 33 batters he faced.

“He's a young, hard-throwing right-handed pitcher with a good mix of pitches,” Antonetti said. “He's got an above-average fastball, up to 96 [mph]. He's got a really good slider. His changeup is his third pitch, and that's developing. He has the ingredients to develop into a successful starting Major League pitcher.”

Greene is a 19-year-old outfield prospect who was ranked No. 10 in the Mets’ system. The Pipeline experts project Greene to make his MLB debut in 2024, though the outfielder has only played in five professional games thus far.

“Young, athletic, left-handed-hitting center fielder who's got above-average speed, very good plate discipline,” Antonetti said. “Controls the strike zone really well and good contact ability. Great ingredients to work with to develop into a productive player on both sides of the ball.”