Let’s face it, the Cleveland Indians should trade Francisco Lindor. The Indians aren’t going to sign him long-term (though they easily could), and are suddenly looking at a second or third-place finish in the AL Central in 2020.
After doing almost nothing following their ALDS sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros in 2018, the Indians took a step backward and finished second in the Central behind the Minnesota Twins. And now, with the Chicago White Sox positioning themselves to contend and the Twins reloading, the Indians have instead cut payroll by trading Corey Kluber. Yes, they’ve signed Cesar Hernandez, but the Indians are now the second or third best team in the Central. No longer will they be projected to win the division, much less make the playoffs.
And if the Indians aren’t going to do what it takes to remain competitive with the White Sox and Twins, much less compete for a World Series, then they should trade Lindor. To quote The Athletic’s Andy McCullough:
“Why waste time and allow his potential trade value to suffer? Cleveland does not have enough talent on its roster to make a legitimate bid for a title in 2020. Minnesota leap-frogged the Indians in 2019, and you could argue the White Sox will be better this year. So rip off the Band-Aid.”
So let’s see what the Indians can get. Using the Baseball Trade Simulator, founded and edited by John Bitzer (h/t to Effectively Wild), I put together one trade every MLB team could make for Lindor. Not every trade is completely realistic, I happen to think it heavily undervalues Lindor, but every single one was validated by the trade simulator’s algorithm as something realistic enough to be accepted.
(All stats via FanGraphs. All prospect rankings via MLB Pipeline)
Three of the Diamondbacks top four prospects in Alek Thomas, Kristian Robinson and Seth Beer is a lot, but that’s probably what it takes to get two years of Lindor. Neither Thomas nor Robinson is that close to the majors, while Beer’s future is probably as a 1B/DH.
The Braves are one of the few teams that really have the prospect capital to acquire Lindor. Either of Atlanta’s two top prospects, Cristian Pache or Drew Waters, could headline the trade. Add Johan Camargo, who’s played almost 550 innings at shortstop, and you’re probably close to a deal. Cleveland probably would be willing to take Dansby Swanson back, should the Braves want to move on from the former first-round pick.
Dream all you want Orioles fans, this isn’t happening. Though Trey Mancini would be a great acquisition if the Indians decided to make some moves to contend.
Boston Red Sox
Not sure why the Red Sox would want to trade for Lindor when they’re trying to cut payroll and potentially trade both Mookie Betts and David Price. But they do have a few decent prospects. Not the high-end ones the Indians are probably looking for though.
It would be really weird to see Kris Bryant, Wilson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber in Cleveland Indians uniforms after 2016. It might be ever weirder to Lindor in Cubs’ blue.
Chicago White Sox
The Indians aren’t trading Lindor within the division. Even if the White Sox massively overpay. And this isn’t nearly enough of an overpay.
Reportedly, the Indians and Reds have talked about a package headlined by Nick Senzel and Jonathan India, the Reds’ third-best prospect, for Lindor. If that’s the case, Cleveland should think about it, as the Trade Simulator thinks Senzel, India, Tyler Mahle and a PTBNL, Jim Bowden’s prediction in his Month-by-month bold predictions for 2020, would be massive overpay.
Who says NO? And to think it might be the Indians who balk because of Nolan Arenado’s contract…
If the Indians needed some pitching prospects and the Tigers were looking to contend, there might be a trade to be made. But as neither is the case, and the Tigers are also in the AL Central, this isn’t happening.
The Indians need an outfielder, and Kyle Tucker would certainly fit, but the Astros don’t really need a shortstop. A trade between these two teams really doesn’t make sense, unless Houston decides to target one of the Indians’ starting pitchers.
Kansas City Royals
This doesn’t make too much sense for the Royals, but from the Indians’ perspective, they’re getting a 3-WAR second baseman with four years of control, as well as a power-hitting outfielder with two more years of control. It’s not the worst deal they could get for Lindor, but its probably also not the best.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels aren’t trading Jo Adell, so instead the Indians could ask for the Angels’ next two top outfield prospects in Brandon Marsh and Jordyn Adams. Throw in infielder David Fletcher and 2B Jahmai Jones, Los Angeles’ fifth-best prospect, and you might have a reasonable deal.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Indians, reportedly, want Gavin Lux, the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect, while the Dodgers have been reluctant to include him in any offer for just Lindor. So the two teams are at an impasse, and Los Angeles has started looking at Mookie Betts instead. The Indians would be crazy to trade Mike Clevinger, but if the two sides circle back, a mega-deal would probably look something like this:
In this hypothetical, Derek Jeter decides to take out his anger on all the future Hall of Fame shortstops after not getting elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously. So he trades for Lindor.
The NL Central is there for the taking. The entire National League could be too if the Brewers acquired Lindor. All it would take is Keston Hiura who tallied 2.1 fWAR in his rookie season and isn’t a free agent till 2025. Just think about it, David Stearns…
Never in a million years would the Indians trade Lindor to the Twins. It’d have to be such a massive overpay, that Twins fans would revolt. So let’s move on.
New York Mets
The New York Mets would be an interesting landing spot for Lindor. If the Mets are looking to contend, Lindor would be a huge upgrade over Ahmed Rosario and would be an absolute superstar in New York. And the Mets have plenty of outfield depth and infield prospects to send to Cleveland in return. But reportedly, the Mets bowed out of Lindor trade talks when the Indians asking price got too high.
New York Yankees
Before Gleyber Torres turned into a superstar, the Yankees trading for Lindor would have made a lot more sense. Now though? Not as much. New York definitely has the assets to acquire Lindor though, with Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier and several top prospects. So while I wouldn’t count out the Yankees just yet, its a lot less realistic with the vast number of infield options the Yankees currently have.
Would Ramon Laureano, plus a prospect or two, be enough for two-years of Francisco Lindor? Maybe, but with Marcus Siemien, who finished in the Top 5 of the 2019 AL MVP voting entrenched at shortstop, the Athletics have no need to trade for Lindor, much less trade their centerfielder for the next 3-4 years.
Before they signed Didi Gregorious, the Phillies were mentioned as a potential trade destination for Lindor. And while Lindor would still be an upgrade over Jean Segura, the Phillies probably aren’t willing to part with the prospect capital and/or talent needed to acquire for the four-time All-Star.
There’s really no reason for the Pirates to trade for Lindor with Pittsburgh about to begin a lengthy rebuild. But if Pittsburgh was actually interested, the Indians could restock their outfield by acquiring Starling Marte, Sammy Siani or even Bryan Reynolds, while also adding a Top 100 prospect in Oneil Cruz.
San Diego Padres
If the Padres really wanted to challenge the Dodgers this season, they could move Fernando Tatis Jr. to centerfield and trade for Lindor, giving themselves a star-studded lineup headlined by Lindor, Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. It would take a lot, and chances are the Padres wouldn’t want to part with recently-acquired Tommy Pham, but they certainly have the pieces to make a move.
San Francisco Giants
Another team with the prospect capital to acquire Lindor, but not one that really makes sense. The Giants have several high-end, Top 100 prospects in Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, Marco Luciano and Hunter Bishop, but in a rebuild, it really doesn’t make sense to trade any of them. Especially for a star shortstop who’ll be a free agent in 2021.
Surprisingly, Jerry DiPoto has only made one trade this offseason, after making many, many more the past two years. Assuming he does make a few more this offseason though, this definitely won’t be one of them.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals appear to be targeting a different, high-priced acquisition this offseason in Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado. St. Louis already has Paul DeJong entrenched at shortstop, who they just signed to a contract extension through 2025. Even if St. Louis doesn’t make a trade for Arenado, a trade for Lindor doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays trading for Francisco Lindor would be a very anti-Rays trade. Every year they unload their more expensive contracts to acquire more years of team control. They’ve already they’ve done it this offseason with Tommy Pham. So as hard as I tried to get Wander Franco on the Indians, Tampa Bay probably isn’t trading for Lindor.
What better way for the Rangers to open their new ballpark then with one of the best players in baseball at shortstop. All it’d take is three of Texas’ top five prospects inJosh Jung, Hans Crouse and Leody Taveras…or Joey Gallo.
Toronto Blue Jays
If the Blue Jays were another year or two into their competitive window, it might make sense to trade for Lindor. But with Toronto staring up at the Rays and Yankees and still a year or two away from competing in the AL East, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
You will make this trade, Mike Rizzo. You will make this trade, Mike Rizzo…