Though Indians manager Terry Francona emphatically stated that shortstop Francisco Lindor is “not on the trading block” last month, the four-time All-Star’s name has been involved in trade rumors for quite a while now. He’ll enter his final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2021 season after which he can become a free agent. The clock is ticking for the Indians to either sign Lindor to a contract extension or trade him.
Indians president Chris Antonetti continued to pave the way out of Cleveland for Lindor. Asked about Lindor’s status, here’s what Antonetti had to say, per ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez:
We’d love for Francisco to be here long term. I think Francisco shares that desire. We have, and our ownership has made, meaningful efforts to try and do that. And so has Francisco. And he and his representative, David Meter, continue to express to both us, publicly and privately, that he’d like to stay here and like to stay in Cleveland. And I think he’s been consistent with what he shared with all of you. Now, how we make that happen is where it gets difficult. … It’s 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.
The Indians surely are not in a comparable position as the Red Sox, who needlessly jettisoned Mookie Betts along with David Price in order to scale back payroll and get back under the competitive balance tax threshold. The Indians aren’t in any danger of exceeding the $208 million CBT threshold, currently standing at about $105 million. However, according to Forbes, the Indians’ operating income has declined from $47 million in 2017, to $31 million in ’18, to $16 million last year. Times are tight.
Regardless of the organization’s financial situation, this has to be painful for Indians fans, counting the days they have left with Lindor. Along with being a four-time All-Star who has become one of the game’s most marketable stars, he has won two Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove, as well as two Silver Sluggers. Last year, Lindor hit .284/.335/.518 with 32 home runs, 74 RBI, 101 runs scored, and 22 stolen bases in 654 plate appearances. That, plus stellar defense, led to him being worth 4.4 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs. He tied Javier Báez for the fifth-best WAR among qualified shortstops.
Lindor will earn $17.5 million and will almost certainly get a raise in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021. Based on Antonetti’s comments, it seems likely he’ll be wearing a new uniform at some point between now and the 2021 trade deadline.