Is Francisco Lindor tradeable?
Recently, Joel Sherman of the NY Post advocated strongly for the Yankees to trade for Francisco Lindor [63.4] , in the wake of the Yanks’ defeat to the Astros. Granted, Sherman is a NY beat writer, so there’s some classic Yankee homerism in his take that that the Yanks could actually acquire him.
What’s missing in his proposal is a dose of reality from the Indians’ perspective. First, as BTV regular and Indians fan hockeyjohn often points out when commenting on trades involving the Indians, Cleveland is still a competitive team, looking to win the AL Central in 2020. And although Lindor has only two years of control remaining, and is getting expensive, his presence on the roster is still a key to that goal for at least one more year. For that reason alone, he may not be available.
Another issue is that the Indians may not want to trade with the Yankees, because they’d be helping a potential competitor.
Finally, and most importantly, when looking at a potential return, Sherman makes no consideration whatsoever of the Indians’ needs. He throws out names like Miguel Andujar [26.7] and prospects like Jasson Dominguez [24.2] and Deivi Garcia [22.8] , all of whom are attractive talents, yes, but none would fill the big hole in the lineup and at short left by Lindor in the immediate future.
In any potential Lindor trade, my guess is that Cleveland would want a similar, younger replacement for him at SS, along with some other pieces. They already have a hole at 2B with the buyout of Jason Kipnis, which makes the need to fill the middle infield with impact talent a pressing issue. None of those three names from the Yankees fit that need.
Here at BTV, we have Lindor’s median trade value estimate at 63.4. Let’s break that down into components:
- Adjusted field value: 86.5
- Estimated salary: 41.7
- Surplus: 44.8
- Estimated value of draft pick assuming he declines a QO: 9.0
- Subtotal Net: 53.8
- Premium added due to low availability, competitive situation and marketability: 9.6
- Total Net: 63.4
The key here, I think, is the adjusted field value of 86.5. That means if Cleveland were to trade Lindor, given their competitive goals, they’d want to replace him with a major leaguer or two who can match or come close to that number, in the next two years and beyond, and particularly in the middle infield.
Who would that be? Let’s look at some options.
Reasonable, but unlikely
Atlanta could decide that they’d like to upgrade at SS by trading for Lindor, and they have enough young player capital to make it interesting. But again, Cleveland would want an immediate-impact middle infielder, and Atlanta does not have one to offer. They would likely put Dansby Swanson [33.2] in the deal, but that probably wouldn’t excite Cleveland. Swanson comes with one extra year of control, is estimated to be much cheaper ($16.5M salary over those three years), and definitely showed improvement this past season, but he’s no Lindor on the field – we estimate his AFV at 47.6, which is barely over half of the on-field production the Indians would get from Lindor.
Any other contenders need a SS upgrade? The only other obvious one is Milwaukee, who is looking at a non-tender of Orlando Arcia. But they’re also likely to lose Mike Moustakas at 3B, creating a hole there, so they’ve got two infield spots to fill. And the only obvious trade chip that would make sense for the Indians is Keston Hiura [73.2] , whose value is a close fit to Lindor’s. But for the Brewers, that would be like cutting off their nose to spite their face – trade a franchise 2B with six years of cheap control (which is meaningful for a small market team like Milwaukee) for a SS upgrade with two expensive years of control? Hard to see that happening.
What about the Phillies? Or Cubs? Now we’re reaching. The Phillies would offer either Jean Segura [-3.9] (whose value is actually negative) or Scott Kingery [20.1] , but neither would likely appeal to Cleveland, even if they also included a top prospect or two, for the same reasons as above. The Cubs would need to trade Javier Baez [53.5] for Lindor, but that seems completely unnecessary.
Even more unlikely
One intriguing trade partner is the Mets. They could offer either Jeff McNeil [43.3] or Amed Rosario [49.8] , both of whom come with multiple years of cheap control. McNeil is the more established of the two; Rosario would fill the SS role more ably but, despite his improvement in 2019, would be more of a gamble for the Indians.
Unfortunately, the Mets don’t have much else to offer. Leading with Rosario would require adding other pieces of interest, but because their top two prospects are shortstops, it would be redundant, and pieces like Brett Baty or Matt Allan are much too far away. And with McNeil, it would be close to a 1-1 swap, which also seems unlikely.
Another, perhaps longer shot, is the Reds. Cincinnati is planning to contend in 2020 (hence the Trevor Bauer trade), and if they’re going to do that, they’ll need a good SS. Trouble is, they’ve already traded with Cleveland once recently and the Indians didn’t want Taylor Trammell (flipping him to the Padres for more major-league ready players), so we might presume that Cleveland would not be interested in anything left in the Reds’ prospect coffers.
Which leads us to Nick Senzel [67.1] , who would be a mild overpay. He comes with six years of cheap control, an estimated field value of 92.3 over that period, and can play up the middle (the Indians could immediately fill their 2B hole with him). But here again, as with Hiura, the Reds may be borrowing from Peter to pay Paul here. There’s not much net gain, or point to it, unless they place a higher value on Lindor’s marketability to get fans back in the seats (which they might).
The longest shot of all? The Oakland A’s. Sure, they have breakout SS Marcus Semien. But they also have a hole at 2B, and perhaps Semien could move over for a year. The A’s are moving into win-now mode, so a Lindor acquisition could be just the thing that gets them over the wild card hump and into serious competition with the Astros. What would it take?
The A’s would have to offer Ramon Laureano [61.7] to bolster the Indians’ OF. Granted, he’s not a SS replacement, but he comes with five years of control, his value is a match, and his adjusted field value is 104.5, which is more than Lindor’s total. The A’s could also throw in Jorge Mateo [4.3] to play SS for Cleveland, as he’s MLB-ready, and perhaps ask for another piece in return, like Sam Hentges [5.4] . Lindor would also help balance the A’s’ righty-heavy lineup. But again, in doing so, the A’s would lose a cornerstone outfielder, and pay Lindor’s premium salary to boot, which is why it’s so unlikely.
Arguably, the fact that there’s no obvious match for Lindor may also be a problem for Cleveland, because if they decide to trade Lindor in a year or so, they’ll be in a weaker negotiating position and would have to take what’s on offer regardless of positional fit.
But right now? We don’t see a realistic scenario for a Lindor trade.