The Cleveland Indians were once again a playoff team in 2020. Their core has been one of the better cores of the generation, cornerstoned by potential AL MVP Jose Ramirez and his shortstop counterpart Francisco Lindor.
Lindor is one of the most dynamic players in baseball. Known for his full-of-life personality and leadership, he’s still only entering his age 27 season. He came up at 21 years of age, however, and has been a five tool shortstop. Having already won multiple Gold Glove awards, his defense is stellar. His plus arm is complemented by some of the best range in MLB history. Yet, it’s his offensive game that steals the headlines. The four time All-Star averages 30 homeruns a year, to go with an average of 21 SBs and a line of .285/.346/.488. He has a high walk percentage and is one of the more complete players in baseball even at his relative young age. Yet, Cleveland has yet to get back to the World Series since their 2016 loss.
This poses an interesting preposition: a Frankie Lindor blockbuster? That’s a huge paradigm shift in the open market. Which teams can afford his bump and need a premium, top of the order bat? Francisco Lindor is arguably a top five player in the game, how big is that package going to be?
To answer the latter, pretty hefty. It’ll be a huge haul that could jeopardize a team’s future if they feel like Lindor is the missing piece. Here are three theoretical blockbuster trades.
Gleyber Torres to Cleveland
The Trade: Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco and cash considerations for Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Jasson Dominguez, Luis Gil and Austin Wells.
Why it makes sense for Cleveland: Obviously Cleveland doesn’t necessarily want to trade Lindor within the American League, but this is a huge trade for them. Paying a little bit of the money for Carlos Carrasco gets them out of not one, but two big contracts and gives them money to go after a big free agent bat (perhaps, franchise icon Michael Brantley comes back?) Torres is a former number one overall prospect, whose bat isn’t too far removed from a stellar 2019 campaign, even if his defense has been awful in his major league tenure. It’s an immediate and long-term replacement for Lindor. Sanchez is a throw-in that could be a serviceable back-up for the Indians and a potential replacement should Roberto Perez leave any time soon. Throwing in the cash on Carrasco allows them to get an extra prospect or two, in this case the extra prospect is Austin Wells. Wells is the Yankees number six prospect and is a catcher. Jasson Dominguez is the most attractive prospect, the number one overall in the organization, and would finally give them a longterm solution in the corner outfield. Luis Gil fills their quest for a young starting pitcher, as the #5 prospect posted huge numbers in A ball last season at only 21 years of age.
Why it makes sense for New York: The Yankees had yet another disappointing season by their standards. They lost the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays decisively and then again to the Rays in five to have a premature exit in the postseason. At the forefront at the disappointment was starting pitching, Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres. Gleyber was the worst defender in baseball in 2020, while hitting to a below-league average .724 OPS. Gary Sanchez was far worse, having by far his worst major league season. This would give Gary a much needed change of scenery. While Gleyber is still only 23 with a lifetime of potential and isn’t a piece anybody would part with, Francisco Lindor is a far superior player, even if not locked up longterm. A piece like Carlos Carrasco is also key here. The Yankees had one of the most underwhelming rotations in baseball and it cost them in the postseason. They are also losing James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and JA Happ to free agency. Carrasco has a 3.40 ERA over his last 1000 IP and is an instant strong number three behind Gerrit Cole and James Paxton. He is signed through 2022 with a team option for 2023. The Yankees would need to sign another catcher, but it gets The Sanchize out of the Bronx, while giving them a major upgrade to both the offense and defense at one of baseball’s most premium positions as well as an integral starter. If I were the Yankees, I’d immediately extend Lindor.
Austin Riley to Cleveland
The Trade: Francisco Lindor for Austin Riley, Braden Shewmake, Williams Contreras, Kyle Muller and Kyle Wright.
Why it makes sense for Cleveland: With Lindor gone, Jose Ramirez could be moving back to shortstop. Even with Lindor, he’s played over 900 major league innings at shortstop. They also have a big problem in the corner outfields. Austin Riley was one of baseball’s premiere third base prospects before bursting onto the big league scene last season as…a left fielder, due to former AL MVP Josh Donaldson playing for the Braves. Riley has light tower power but has struggled mightily with sliders, especially when they’re down in the zone. In 2019, Riley saw 106 sliders down in the strike zone and didn’t put a single one in play. 62 were laid off for a ball, two called for a strike, five fouled off. 37 of them were swung on and missed. Cleveland is great at taking holes in a bat and fixing them. Riley is still only 24 with a world of potential and could be a big reward for the Indians. Braden Shewmake is one of baseball’s top shortstop prospects in an absolutely loaded Braves farmsystem. He’s only 22 and his ETA for the big league’s is next season, but the Braves have Dansby Swanson at shortstop long term, with no spot for their number five organizational prospect. This gives Cleveland a longterm shortstop answer should they keep Ramirez at third and continue Riley in the outfield. Williams Contreras is a great backup to Perez and young enough to be developed into a starter once Perez leaves after the 2022 season. As for the pitching, it’s a tale as old as time. The Indians get an underwhelming starter that was a top prospect and mold him into his potential. Kyle Wright is tailor made to be an Indian. Kyle Muller gives them a top southpaw prospect expected to be ready by the end of next season.
Why it makes sense for Atlanta: The Braves were one win away from a World Series appearance in 2020. They will be losing Marcell Ozuna to free agency, leaving a huge offensive gap. Ozuna was primarily a designated hitter in 2020, which will not be in effect for the NL in 2021. They have to fill in the offensive gap with one of the remaining eight lineup spots. Moving Swanson to third base in place of Riley immediately improves third base’s offensive output while opening up shortstop. Despite Dansby’s fantastic breakout campaign, Lindor immediately is an upgrade defensively at shortstop. Not only that, but he becomes their most complete offensive asset, and yes that includes Ronald Acuna and probable NL MVP Freddie Freeman. Is Lindor a longterm solution? Probably not, given general manager’s Alex Anthopoulos’ hesitance to commit long term to talent outside of superstar 2B Ozzie Albies and the aforementioned Acuna. Contreras isn’t a piece of the future for the Braves, despite impressing in what he did in 2020, because by the time the contract for Travis d’Arnaud ends, top catching prospect Shea Langeliers hopes to be big league ready. With the wealth of pitching prospects in the Braves organization, Muller is expendable. Bryse Wilson showed what he had in the NLCS head-to-head against Clayton Kershaw and likely solidified himself a rotation spot going forward. With Max Fried as the ace, as well as Mike Soroka coming back from injury and Ian Anderson coming onto the staff to show how much of a phenom he truly is, Wright is now expendable and perhaps a detriment to the Braves rotation.
The Trade: Francisco Lindor for Jesse Winker, Nick Lodolo, Jose Garcia, Vladimir Guiterrez, Lyon Richardson and Mariel Bautista.
Why it makes sense for Cleveland: This is probably the weakest of the three hypotheticals, but Nick Lodolo is the Reds number one prospect. Per MLB.com, the lefties arrival is set for 2021, despite only being drafted in 2019 (seventh overall). He is the 44th overall ranked prospect in baseball. Jose Garcia, Cincinnati’s #6 prospect, made his MLB debut this past season. Jesse Winker would immediately be a force in the Indians lineup, as a clear upgrade to the corner outfield situation. The lefty hit 12 homeruns in the shortened 2020 season and averages 22 homeruns with an .859 OPS over a 162 average for his career so far. Vladimir Guiterrez is a flame throwing righty cruising through the minors and soon to be major league ready. Mariel Bautista is the Reds #24 prospect, but the outfielder has already seen time in AAA and soon hopes to be in the Show. Lanky righty Lyon Richardson could be a star starter for the Indians, as the 2018 second rounder is armed with a 95 mph heater (with movement) that’s complimented by a sweeping 70 mph curve, offering a different look for the hitter.
Why it makes sense for Cincinnati: The Reds barely snuck into the postseason, but when they got there their pitching was electrifying. Going forward, they have Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. Yet their offense was dead on arrival as the Braves pitching staff made them look foolish. Former MVP Joey Votto is a far cry from what he was even three seasons ago, while big free agent acquisitions such as Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos have way too high of a K rate. Eugenio Suarez did not come close to replicated his 49-homerun 2019 campaign. The team’s baserunning was slow and inefficient. The team has pop, but they need contact and speed and without a proven shortstop option, Lindor is the biggest potential commodity available. They wouldn’t be able to keep him long-term, I don’t think, but a player like Lindor that can carry an offense with this pitching staff could be a championship dark horse in similar vein to the 2019 Washington Nationals or 2020 Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, the former won the World Series while the latter lost in the World Series. With how relatively weak the NL Central is, they immediately become division favorites.
Where would YOU like to see Lindor end up and what would your offer be?
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