The Indians’ season ended Wednesday with a loss to the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs, and that may have been the last time superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor ever suits up for the team. Even though he’s still under control for one more season – his final year of arbitration eligibility – Lindor could prove to be too expensive for the low-budget Indians to keep for the long haul, so he figures to pop up in plenty of offseason trade rumors. Lindor, already a four-time All-Star who’s soon to turn 27, spoke about his future with Zack Meisel of The Athletic and other reporters after the Indians’ elimination.
While Lindor called the Indians “a class-act organization” and made clear he loves the franchise, the city and its fan base, that doesn’t mean the club will be able to retain him. Lindor could price himself out of Cleveland’s range if he’s still a member of the team a year from now, though when asked if the Indians would be able to afford him, he said: “Of course. It’s a billion-dollar team. Of course. Of course. Of course. Yeah. That’s all I can say.”
Lindor’s right that cash isn’t in short supply for the Indians or any other team; however, in the wake of a coronavirus-shortened season, the Indians may be less willing than ever about giving up huge money for a single player. Lindor could command a long-term deal upward of $300MM in guarantees, so it’s difficult to envision the Indians keeping him for years to come. It may even be hard to imagine that Lindor will stick around next season, considering the tantalizing trade offers that could come in for him.
The 2020 campaign was not enormously successful for Lindor, who put up his worst-ever batting line (.258/.335/.415 with eight home runs and six steals) across 266 trips to the plate. It was a relatively small sample of work, though, and there’s no debating that Lindor has been a premier player – not just an elite shortstop – since he debuted in 2015. The question now is whether the Indians will retain Lindor to begin 2021, in which he’ll receive a raise over his $17.5MM salary. As good as Lindor is, that could prove too rich for the Indians’ blood if they’re not confident they can extend him.