Francisco Lindor is done talking about an extension possibility with the Indians this spring. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd breaks down what the future might hold for the star shortstop in today’s video:
Any hope of a spring extension agreement between the Indians and star shortstop Francisco Lindor now seems to be gone. The 26-year-old tells Jason Lloyd of The Athletic (subscription link) that he and the team have “set aside” their talks on a long-term deal for the time being.
While it seems substantial talks have taken place, they obviously didn’t gain much traction. Lindor says that the club did not make an offer up to or over the $300MM level. He recently informed the front office that he would prefer to focus on the season ahead.
Just where the Cleveland organization was willing to go isn’t clear, but Lindor doesn’t seem inclined to take a big discount. He tells Lloyd that a contract along the lines of the recent Christian Yelich deal — $188.5MM of new money — wouldn’t hold appeal. And Lindor says he’s “very aware” of “what’s fair for both sides,” because he has personally “studied it.”
Lindor says he’s not bitter about the situation and remains interested in remaining in Cleveland over the long haul. But as Lloyd explains, that’s harder than ever to imagine.
With no evident possibility of a spring deal — barring a renewed pursuit by the club at a higher dollar amount, perhaps — the focus will now be on the summer trade market. If the Indians aren’t in a competitive position, they’ll surely at least entertain offers on Lindor.
All of the impediments to an agreement have long been evident, so this news doesn’t come as a surprise. But there had been some hope that the sides might figure out a way to line up, as both expressed an interest in doing so.
As recently as mid-February, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor called Cleveland “home” and expressed a willingness to stay with the club. No extension has come together yet, but Indians president Chris Antonetti said Tuesday that “neither side has given up trying,” per Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. However, Lindor noted he has an “early March” deadline on contract talks, so it appears the Indians are running out of time to lock him up in the near future (if they haven’t already). Odds have long been against the Indians finding a way to keep Lindor from hitting free agency when his team control runs out after 2021, as the 26-year-old is on pace to wind up with one of the largest contracts in the history of the game if and when he reaches the open market.
- Reds shortstop Freddy Galvis suffered “a quad strain during a baserunning drill,” according to manager David Bell (via Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer). Galvis underwent an MRI, but the severity of the injury isn’t known at this time. The Reds looked ripe for an upgrade at short during the offseason, but they instead stuck with Galvis, whom they claimed from Toronto last August and then retained by way of a $5.5MM club option during the winter. Now, if Galvis’ injury is severe enough to cost him regular-season time, it’s unclear who will fill in at short for the Reds. Alex Blandino and Kyle Farmer might be the most logical in-house choices, but neither brings much experience to the table.
- Dodgers utility player Chris Taylor’s out of action for the moment after taking a pitch off the back of the left shoulder, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets. There’s no indication that it’s anything but a minor injury for Taylor, whom a fractured left forearm limited to 124 games in 2019. The versatile Taylor was a highly valuable player for the Dodgers from 2017-18, but his numbers dipped last season during a campaign in which he batted .262/.333/.462 with 1.7 fWAR in 414 plate appearances.
- Major League Baseball and the MLBPA reached a deal with the world baseball governing body that will allow minor leaguers to participate in this summer’s Olympic Games, the Yonhap News Agency relays. The agreement will give national teams the right to select minor leaguers from MLB teams’ 40-man rosters to participate in the Olympics, but anyone on a 26-man roster will be protected. That means there could be some familiar names to baseball fans in the Olympics, which will include the sport for the first time in 12 years.
FEBRUARY 19: The Pads are indeed interested in both Lindor and Senzel, Dennis Lin of The Athletic reports (subscription link). It’s even possible that the Myers talks with the Red Sox could morph into a three-team arrangement involving the Reds, Lin adds.
FEBRUARY 18: Spring Training is now upon us. Prior talks failed to result in a deal. And yet the Red Sox are still holding talks with the Padres about a potential deal that would send first baseman/outfielder Wil Myers to Boston, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Details are about as firm as you could ever hope to see them in a rumor of a potential swap. As before, the Friars want the Sox to take over about half of Myers’s salary (total guarantee of $61MM) over the next three years. Young talent would go to Boston to sweeten the pot. Players that have been discussed include Cal Quantrill, Luis Campusano, and Gabriel Arias, though it’s not clear which would be included and the Sox wouldn’t be able to obtain all of them just to take on half of what’s owed Myers.
That leaves out one major component of the as-yet-uncompleted trade talks: what would come back from the Red Sox? The original chatter between these teams involved Mookie Betts, who is no longer in the Boston stable. There’s no real indication just yet as to what current Red Sox might pique the interest of Padres GM A.J. Preller.
Yet more intriguing? The real goal, per Acee, is to swing a blockbuster for a high-level talent. He notes Nick Senzel of the Reds and Francisco Lindor of the Indians as longstanding targets, but it’s not really clear whether either is realistically available at this point. There aren’t many other conceivable candidates to be acquired who’d meet the description of a “difference-making” performer.
It’s fair to hold some skepticism here, especially as to the possible second prong of this scenario. Then again, Preller once pulled off a trade for Craig Kimbrel just before the start of a season, so it’s tough to rule out any mid-spring fireworks.
After an offseason of trade rumors, the Indians still employ superstar Francisco Lindor. This is the time of year for extension talks and there are indications of mutual interest. But it’s far from clear there’s a match to be made.
Both Lindor and Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti addressed the shortstop’s contract situation today, with ESPN.com’s Alden Gonzalez covering. He’s slated to earn $17.5MM this year with one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining, though the only hope of him remaining in town for the long run would be a new deal of some kind.
Lindor left no doubt he sees Cleveland as “home” and expressed a strong desire to stay and win with his sole professional organization. The 26-year-old also suggested he thinks a long-term contract is possible — and not just in the perfunctory way we sometimes hear from players.
“If the negotiations or whatever makes sense, it’s gonna happen,” Lindor said of a potential blockbuster extension. “The team is not broke. The league is not broke. There’s money.”
So, if Lindor truly wants to stay and feels the economic bridge can be spanned … is there a chance? Antonetti was rather less sanguine, his comments leaving the sense that player and team may well be fated by broader forces to part.
While he says there have been “meaningful efforts” to reach a deal in the past and acknowledges Lindor’s sincerity, Antonetti struck a realistic tone. While the team would also “love for Francisco to be here long-term,” Antonetti explained, it just isn’t that simple.
“It’s not because of a lack of desire on our part, or not because of a lack of desire on Francisco’s part. But more when you look at the economics of baseball and the realities of building championship teams in a small market, it gets really tough. The interest is there, the desire is there, on both sides, to try to get something done. And whether or not that’s possible we just don’t know.”
That stance jives with prior comments of Indians owner Paul Dolan, who has made clear he doesn’t find $300MM+ contracts plausible in the near future for his organization. Dolan also has advised fans to enjoy Lindor while he’s still with the club.
The Mets were one of several teams reported to have interest in Francisco Lindor back when the Indians are seemingly testing the market for the All-Star shortstop earlier this winter. Jeff McNeil was known to be one of Cleveland’s prime targets in talks with the Mets about Lindor, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) recently shed a bit more light on the “significant dialogue” between the Amazins and the Tribe.
“The Mets aggressively tried to acquire [Lindor] at the winter meetings,” Rosenthal writes, noting that it would “likely” have cost New York a three-player package consisting of Amed Rosario and two prospects. Both this proposal and Cleveland’s interest in McNeil were too much for the Mets, however, and beyond the cost in trade chips, Rosenthal has also heard from some corners that “finances played a significant role” in negotiations.
Lindor’s salary for the 2020 season hadn’t yet been finalized by early December, though MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected the shortstop for a $16.7MM payday in his second of three arbitration-eligible seasons. As it happened, Lindor topped this projected number by agreeing to a $17.5MM deal for 2020, an even healthier raise than expected over the $10.55MM salary he earned in 2019. Assuming Lindor has another outstanding year in the coming season, his arb number for 2021 now looks to fall in range of $23MM-$24MM.
Still, something in the neighborhood of $41MM over a two-year span is more than reasonable for a player of Lindor’s caliber. The Mets were known to be trying to move Jeurys Familia and/or Jed Lowrie in order to create payroll space, and the club hasn’t made any hugely expensive acquisitions this winter, signing Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha, and Brad Brach to one-year contracts for a combined $25.6MM in guaranteed money (a total that could rise significantly based on options and incentive clauses in the various deals).
Taking on both a big salary and parting ways with controllable talent like Rosario, McNeil, or prospects was too much for the Mets’ liking, which isn’t an unreasonable stance. McNeil, after all, has been outstanding in his two MLB seasons and Rosario is coming off the best of his three big league campaigns, with the 24-year-old starting to deliver on some of the potential that made him one of baseball’s best prospects. That said, the overall crux of Rosenthal’s piece examines how the Mets are still feeling the impact of last offseason’s blockbuster trade with the Mariners, as the added salaries of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz (who both struggled badly in 2019) have limited payroll flexibility, while moving top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn both thinned out New York’s farm system and also made the team seemingly more wary about moving any more of its top minor leaguers.
Had the Mets not swung that deal with Seattle, who knows how the Amazins’ fate could have changed both during the 2019 season or into their business this offseason, as New York could have been more willing to take the jump on a swap for Lindor or another trade target in Starling Marte (though the Pirates also put a high asking price on Marte in talks with the Mets).
To be fair, Rosenthal notes that as great a player as Lindor is, he “was a luxury item, not a must-have” for a Mets club that already had Rosario, plus top prospects Ronny Mauricio and Andres Gimenez coming up the pipeline at shortstop. There’s also the fact that the Indians may not have been “especially motivated to act” on a Lindor trade, as the big returns Cleveland reportedly wanted in any potential deal indicated that the Tribe would only move Lindor if presented with a special offer. The door now appears to be closed on the possibility of Lindor being dealt this winter, as Cleveland addressed their own payroll concerns by trading Corey Kluber to the Rangers.
Trade rumors have swirled around Francisco Lindor all winter, as the Indians’ moves to limit their payroll over the last 15 months have led to widespread speculation that Lindor will be dealt before he reaches free agency following the 2021 season. Edwin Encarnacion’s three-year, $60MM deal from the 2016-17 offseason still stands as the largest contract in Indians franchise history, and since Lindor could certainly command four times that amount as a free agent, there has been a lot of doubt that he will remain in Cleveland over the long-term.
Speaking to reporters (including MLB.com’s Mandy Bell and the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes) at the TribeFest fan event today, Lindor said the Indians “haven’t offered me the right thing” in regards to a multi-year extension. Such a contract doesn’t seem to be a pressing concern for Lindor at the moment, as he is in “no rush” to pursue an extension since he is still two years away from the open market:
“Is there a right number for me right now? I haven’t really thought about it. I’m not there yet. I’m going to worry about what I got in front of my toes. A lot of money sounds pretty right now. Everything sounds pretty. A lot of years sound pretty, too. At the end of the day, it’s about what’s best for me, my family, and also the Indians’ organization.”
“If they don’t think I can stay here because of the money situation, then I won’t be here. But I do want to be in Cleveland. I love the Indians, I love their fans. The city has grown on me a lot. When it is the right time to sign an extension? I don’t know when it’s the right time. God has a plan for me and my family and I truly believe in it. What’s going to happen is going to happen.”
In regards to the Tribe’s “money situation,” Lindor downplayed the idea that the club wasn’t able to afford him, pointing out “there’s money out there. Our payroll was $120MM last year. That’s money.” That said, Lindor also acknowledged the team’s perspective on how payroll should be allocated: “The question is, is it the right time for each team…when are they going to spend the money?….Is it the right time for the Indians? I don’t know.”
To this end, Lindor seemingly implied that while he enjoys playing for the Indians, he isn’t pleased with being part of a club that one eye on the budget rather than a sole focus on being competitive. “Wherever I go, I want to win,” Lindor said. “I want to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland….It has nothing to do with the money. It has nothing to do with the years. It has nothing to do with who I like or who I don’t like. It has to do with championships. The front office tries to put a team together to win, not to save money. They’re supposed to try to put a team together to win. I’m here to try to win.”
The Reds, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Padres, and Mets have all reportedly had interest in trading for Lindor this winter, though Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona have both stated that their team isn’t looking to deal the shortstop. While a Lindor swap might not happen this offseason, the possibility can’t be ruled out for the trade deadline if the Indians aren’t in contention. Of course, Cleveland traded Trevor Bauer last July even while still in contention, though the Indians had the pitching depth to make a Bauer deal more palatable, whereas there isn’t any way for the team to so easily replace Lindor’s usual All-Star level of production.
We haven’t been alone in wondering whether the Reds’ slate of offseason moves set the stage for a major swap to bring in a high-end player. But that may not be in the plans, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link).
Notably, per the report, there have been some eyebrow-raising negotiations this winter. The Reds, Dodgers, and Indians discussed a deal that would’ve brought Corey Seager to Cincinnati and sent Francisco Lindor to L.A., with the Cleveland organization adding young talent. The Reds also held talks on scenarios in which they’d land Lindor.
It’s always fun to hear of big names being tossed around, but in this case it doesn’t seem the chatter gained any traction. At the moment, per Rosenthal, “talks involving Lindor appear dormant.”
That being said, adding two veteran outfielders to the mix certainly has created a crowded picture for the Reds. And the team is reportedly holding some talks regarding youngster Nick Senzel. From some angles, it still seems that further discussions could be sensible.
Trouble is, Rosenthal notes, the Reds’ intervening signings have absorbed the payroll flexibility that might’ve been needed to land Lindor. While Seager is cheaper, it’s not at all clear that he’s really in play as the Dodgers pursue other opportunities.
As ever, the situation can turn on a dime. And we’re certainly not seeing the entirety of the picture here. But it seems at minimum that the Reds did not ink Nick Castellanos with anything like a specific plan in place to pull off a corresponding trade. It’s equally true, though, that the Reds now have the flexibility — in young talent, if not payroll — to jump on an opportunity should one arise.
Most of the Blue Jays’ offseason focus has been on obtaining starting pitching, with Travis Shaw standing out as the most significant addition to the position player mix. However, Toronto has also looked into some major upgrades to the everyday lineup, as Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports that the Jays had interest in Didi Gregorius before the free agent signed with Philadelphia. In terms of players still potentially available, the Jays have also “checked in” with the Indians about a trade for Francisco Lindor.
It might be fair to characterize the Jays’ interest in Lindor as perhaps due diligence at this point. As Davidi put it, “any sane front office” would naturally ask Cleveland about an All-Star player who has been the subject of trade rumors for months. It doesn’t appear as though a Lindor trade (with the Jays or anyone) is happening any time soon, as both Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona have each recently indicated that Lindor isn’t being shopped. While things could still change on that front, of course, the possibility of a Lindor deal decreased when the Tribe dealt Corey Kluber to the Rangers, thus lessening Cleveland’s payroll commitments for the 2020 season.
The multi-positional ability of young shortstop Bo Bichette and, in particular, incumbent second baseman Cavan Biggio factored into Toronto’s pursuits. Both players expressed a willingness to change positions if it helps the team, and Biggio might end up playing a super-utility role regardless of who else the Jays might add.
Interestingly, Bichette wouldn’t have been changing positions had Gregorius been signed, as the Jays planned to use Gregorius as a second baseman. GM Ross Atkins and president Mark Shapiro gave Bichette a heads-up about the Gregorius pursuit, with Bichette saying, “It was presented to me as, ’We’re going after Didi, don’t worry, we’ve already told him you’re our shortstop.’ I’d imagine that’s probably a reason why he didn’t come here.”
After also receiving interest from such teams as the Brewers, Giants, and Reds, Gregorius signed a one-year, $14MM contract with the Phillies to become their new regular shortstop. (Gregorius himself displaced an incumbent shortstop in Jean Segura, who will now handle second base duties in Philadelphia.) Toronto’s plan to deploy Gregorius at second base both indicates the club’s confidence in Bichette’s ability to handle the shortstop position and also some likely trepidation about Gregorius’ defensive ability going forward. After coming back from Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2018, Gregorius’ glovework drew dire grades from the Defensive Runs Saved (-11) and infield outs above average (-13) metrics.
Indians’ manager Terry Francona spoke clearly and confidently during an appearance on MLB Network Radio’s Remember When (audio link). According to Francona, Francisco Lindor is not on the trading block.
“I can guarantee you we’re not trying to trade Lindor. We have him for two more years. Keeping him is everybody’s goal. Also know that keeping him and fielding a competitive team is a challenge in our market. There’s no getting around that. It’s not gonna be easy. I think that’s as honest as you can be.”
This jibes more-or-less with what we’ve been hearing out of Cleveland for most of the offseason. Still, Francona lends the message a certain gravitas. If the tone was more forceful, the content doesn’t differ all that significantly from the the equivocating trafficked by front offices. The Indians, like many teams, are in a position of financial maneuvering. The payroll limits imposed by ownership charge the baseball ops department to act creatively and consider options at which they’d otherwise scoff.
Doom and gloom aside, the Indians aren’t devoid of talent. Despite missing the playoffs in 2019 to a Twins team that’s continued their full court press this winter, the Indians are coming off their fourth consecutive 90-win season. They won just one less game in 2020 than in 2016, the year they won the pennant.