Francisco Lindor trade rumors: Four teams that could trade for shortstop, three that won’t
Ask anyone in baseball to compile a list of the players they’d want to build a franchise around, the players who are stars on and off the field, and Francisco Lindor is sure to make pretty much every short list.
He’s a four-time All-Star entering his Age 27 season. He’s helped lift his club to the postseason in four of his five years in the majors. He’s a legitimate superstar on the field with a magnetic personality and giant smile.
But he will be traded. Almost certainly by Opening Day 2021, whenever that arrives. That’s not breaking news; he’s entering his final year of arbitration and will be a free agent after next season. On the open market, barring an injury or something unexpected, he’ll almost certainly land a contract north of $300 million. Cleveland will not be the club giving him that deal.
Ignoring that “strapped for cash” aside — the Dolan family, which own the Indians, are worth more than $4.6 billion — the rest is accurate (well, other than that he made a pro-rated portion of $17.5 million in 2020). Anyway, he’s almost certain to be traded. And you will hear many teams connected to a pursuit of Lindor.
We’re here to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Thoughts: The Mets’ new owner, Steve Cohen, has a net worth of more than $14 billion and he’s a lifelong Mets fan. There would be no better way for Cohen to let Mets fans know that things will be different under his watch — quickly reminding fans that he’s not the Wilpons is the best thing he could possibly do — than to swing a trade for Lindor and then sign him to a long-term deal that keeps him in a Mets uniform for the next decade.
And, sure, shortstop might not be the club’s most pressing issue; Ahmed Rosario has been the starter there for the past three years and turns just 25 later this month. But even though he’s still developing and has a solid upside, Rosario has not proven to be the type of player — he has a .302 on-base percentage and 91 OPS+ in 403 games, for example — who should stand in the way of acquiring a superstar such as Lindor.
Especially in this scenario, with a new owner and no big-splash free agents on the market. Acquiring Lindor is the perfect opportunity for Cohen and the Mets; he’s a true face-of-the-franchise type of player.
Not happening: Angels
Thoughts: Andrelton Simmons is a free agent, so the team has an opening at shortstop. And the Angels have at least been rumored as a possible destination, partially because a team with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Francisco Lindor in the lineup would have to make the postseason, right? Right? Buehler? (Ferris, not Walker, btw.)
Trading for Lindor would certainly be a big splash for the new GM — whomever that might be — but it feels like a longer shot, especially if it’s just for one year. And why make the move for one year, when contending in 2021 looks difficult, at best? So, would the club really add a third $30-million-a-year player long-term? Trout’s getting $34.5 million through 2030 and Rendon has an AAV of $36.6 through 2026. And that’s not even mentioning the $30 million Albert Pujols is on the books for 2021.
The Angels have so many issues they have to address before they’re legitimate World Series contenders that should probably just sit this one out.
Thoughts: This match is a little more complicated, but it’s hard to discount the Yankees from anything that would help end the streak of years without a World Series appearance at 11. Motivation is not a problem.
The simplest scenario for the Yankees this offseason would be to re-sign free agent D.J. LeMahieu — who was outstanding in his two years with the club — to play second base and leave Gleyber Torres at shortstop. That’s a combination that could absolutely help the Yankees win a World Series. But what if they traded Torres — he had his worst offensive season in 2020, but he’s under club control through 2024 — for Lindor, a simple shortstop-for-shortstop deal (as the principal elements, anyway)?
And what if, for some reason, LeMahieu doesn’t come back? Then, the Yankees could trade for Lindor and move Torres back to second base, where he’s started 168 games for the club. They could also trade for Lindor, move Torres to second and re-sign LeMahieu, then trade third baseman Gio Urshela, who has two years remaining of club control and could help bring back MLB-ready pitching help. LeMahieu started 58 games at the hot corner for the Yankees.
Not happening: Braves
Thoughts: The Braves have been mentioned as possible suitors for Lindor, and they have the young players and a solid farm system — five MLB.com top-100 prospects, by the publication’s midseason rankings — to get it done. Also, they would seem to have the motivation to do whatever necessary to get over the hump and get to the World Series.
But this doesn’t make sense, for a couple of reasons.
Let’s start here: The Braves have a pretty good shortstop in Dansby Swanson. So maybe they move him to third base and put Austin Riley in the deal, even though Swanson’s never played even a single game at third in his pro career? Doesn’t seem likely. Can’t move him to second base because Ozzie Albies is locked in there. And Cleveland, a team shedding payroll like Joba swatted the midges, won’t want Swanson as part of the trade because he’s two years from free agency himself, expected to make around $7 million in his second year of arbitration in 2021.
And then there’s this: Yes, the Braves have had a ton of success with one-year FA deals (Josh Donaldson in 2019 and Marcel Ozuna in 2020), but trading for Lindor only to let him walk as a free agent after 2021 is a completely different scenario. The Braves have been as reluctant as any team to trade away young talent that’s controllable long-term.
So, this would only make sense if the Braves sign Lindor to a long-term deal, the way the Dodgers did with Betts, right? That seems highly unlikely, too, considering franchise icon Freddie Freeman is also a free agent after 2021. He’ll be heading into his Age 32 season, and it would take at least five years with a high AAV to keep him. The Braves aren’t going to give Freeman five years with a high AAV and Lindor 10 years at a high AAV, folks. That just ain’t happening.
Possibility: Blue Jays
Thoughts: This is a franchise heading in the right direction, with a solid core of young rising stars who are cost-controlled for several years. Adding a respected, youthful veteran superstar like Lindor — and signing him long-term — feels like an ideal next step in the evolution of the Jays into perennial contenders. Imagine an infield with Lindor at shortstop, Bo Bichette at third base — he would slide over to make way for Lindor at shortstop — Vlad Guerrero Jr., at first base — he stays there instead of moving back to third next year — and Cavan Biggio at second base for the next five years. Few teams in baseball would be able to match that combo.
And, honestly, even if they don’t sign Lindor long-term, this move makes as much sense as a one-year option for the Blue Jays as it does for any team. They have a strong farm system — ranked No. 7 by MLB.com — that could easily provide the pieces necessary to land Lindor without decimating the organizational talent level. And Lindor is the type of player who would, even in a short stay, help lift the level of those around him.
Not happening: Cardinals
Thoughts: Like the Braves and Angels, the Cardinals have been mentioned as a possible destination. And, positionally, it could happen. With second baseman Kolten Wong free to leave as a free agent, the Cardinals could slide shortstop Paul DeJong to second base and leave Tommy Edman at third, or move Edman to second and DeJong to third. That’s easy enough. And they have the necessary young pieces needed to make a trade happen.
But then, there’s this: John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations, didn’t exactly make it sound like the Cardinals were going to be big players this offseason. “As we approach this offseason,” he said, “it’s definitely going to require some creativity, some patience and good timing.”
Instead, they looked like a club looking to cut expenses because of lost revenues. That’s why Wong, now a back-to-back Gold Glove winner who gets on base at a healthy clip, was allowed to walk when they declined his very reasonable $12.5 million option. So it doesn’t reason that they’d trade for Lindor, even for a year, when he’s slated to make around $20 million in 2021, his final year of arbitration. And a long-term deal would seem even less likely, unless Mozeliak was just throwing folks off the scent and the Cardinals really are planning a blockbuster move (spoiler: that’s not what he was doing).
Thoughts: DiDi Gregorius was fantastic for the Phillies in 2020, but he was there on a one-year deal and certainly will be hunting a multiyear contract this offseason (he’s earned it). He could come back to Philadelphia, but at the moment the club has an opening at shortstop. And there is certainly a sense of desperation to get back to the postseason, after consecutive years of headline-grabbing offseasons leading to lofty expectations but middling results.
And, really, that sense of urgency is why they’re on the “possibility” list and not the “not happening” list. Motivation is a powerful factor, and in this case counteracts the fact that the Phillies don’t have a ton in the way of young upside talent they could move — some, but not a ton — and the fact that Lindor, for as great as he is on the diamond, is not a shut-down relief pitcher. And the club needs several of those. Also, if the club is going to commit the types of dollars it would need to spend to keep Lindor long term, why not give some of that money to J.T. Realmuto, the fan-favorite catcher who could leave as a free agent this winter?
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