In case you hadn’t heard last week — and I can’t imagine what possibly could have distracted you from this — Cleveland plans to trade star shortstop Francisco Lindor in the coming months. The Yankees, along with a number of other teams, are sure to be involved in trade discussions. Let’s take a look at Lindor in our first trade profile of the offseason.
Background & Performance
Lindor hails from Puerto Rico, though his family moved to Florida before he started high school. He attended Montverde Academy, a school you may be familiar with if you follow the NBA. D’Angelo Russell, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, among others, attended. Cleveland drafted Lindor out of Montverde with the 8th overall pick in 2011. He signed for a $2.9 million bonus.
He was a top prospect throughout his minor league career and debuted in the big leagues mid-2015. Since, Lindor has hit .285/.346/.488 (118 wRC+), swatted 138 homers, and stolen 99 bases in 126 attempts (78.6 percent). He’s elite defensively too: the two Gold Gloves to his name aren’t just because of name recognition. All told, Lindor is a five tool player at a premium position and hasn’t turned 27 yet.
As great of a career as Lindor has had, 2020 was a bit of a downer for the shortstop. It wasn’t a bad year by any stretch of the imagination, but he wasn’t as good as before. Lindor hit .258/.335/.415 (100 wRC+) and had just 8 homers in 266 plate appearances. The main issue: power. We discussed this a bit on our most recent podcast. After not posting an isolated power below .232 in the past three seasons, Lindor’s mark dropped to .157 in 2020.
Lindor did see a couple of Statcast metrics drop year-over-year, such as barrel rate and exit velocity. But on the bright side, he still maintained a strong hard hit percentage. His exit velo was still comfortably above average too, by the way. It may have been a down year, but I’m willing to write that off due to 2020 weirdness. And even so, everything still looks pretty good across the board:
It’s worth noting Lindor’s splits as he’s a switch-hitter. For his career, Lindor has fared better vs. lefties (125 wRC+) compared to righties (114 wRC+). That said, the shortstop’s numbers against southpaws have been a bit more volatile throughout his career. He’s posted 101 and 104 wRC+ marks, respectively, in the past two seasons batting right-handed, well below the previously cited career number.
The soon-to-be 27 year-old shortstop is a bastion of health. He has just one injured list stint in his big league career, which came in 2019. He strained his calf in advance of spring training and later sprained his ankle during a minor league game in late March during camp. Still, Lindor managed to play 143 games in 2019. He had played no fewer than 158 games annually since 2016, the first year he was on Cleveland’s roster come Opening Day. Additionally, Lindor played in every single one of his club’s games this year.
Lindor is in his final arbitration season and will be a free agent next winter. Per MLB Trade Rumors, the shortstop’s 2021 salary will be between $17.5 and $21.0 million. If Lindor has a big season, he’s looking at a $300 million contract in the offseason.
What would a trade look like?
Cleveland has very little leverage here. Not only has the organization leaked its plan to trade Lindor, but there are a number of free agent shortstops as well. They aren’t Lindor, but they’re not bad alternatives either. Potential trade partners could instead turn to Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, or Andrelton Simmons.
Leverage aside, Cleveland’s recent trade history isn’t indicative of requiring a big haul in return for Lindor. Just look back to the Trevor Bauer or Mike Clevinger deals. Chris Antonetti appears to prefer quantity over quality when moving big players.
Last year, Cleveland sent Bauer packing in a three-team deal and acquired Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen, and prospects Scott Moss, and Victor Nova. That return was for a year and a half of Bauer. Reyes was the headliner in this one, and a pretty solid one at that. Puig has more name recognition, but wasn’t hitting well at the time of the deal and was just a half season rental.
For Clevinger (and Greg Allen), Cleveland added Josh Naylor, Cal Quantrill, Austin Hedges, and minor leaguers Gabriel Arias, Joey Cantillo, and Owen Miller. This appears to be an even lesser package than what Cleveland netted for Bauer despite Clevinger still having two more years of control.
With these two recent deals in mind, the free agent alternatives, and Cleveland’s apparent desperation, I really don’t think this is going to cost the Yankees an arm and a leg. I’m sure Cleveland will ask for players like Clint Frazier or Deivi García, but I’m not so sure they can actually get that much. MTPS, but here goes nothing:
A couple of current big leaguers and two prospects. I know it looks incredibly light, and perhaps it is. Hell, as you can see, Baseball Trade Values indicates that it might not be enough. I wonder if adding Miguel Andújar (+2.0 MTV on BTV) might sweeten the pot. It gets them another major leaguer, which Antonetti seems to covet in these deals, though Miggy may be at the nadir of his value right now.
This feels like Brian Cashman’s dream trade target, does it not? And I’m not saying that because of how good Lindor is. Rather, I’m saying that because the Yankees like to pounce only when the price is right (in their perspective). The Yankees’ front office isn’t one to overpay or make bold trades. In this case, there’s a very good chance that Lindor comes at a bargain.
Bringing in Lindor would almost certainly mean the end of DJ LeMahieu’s career in pinstripes, but Lindor is the better player now and in the long-term (if the Yankees could re-sign him). Gleyber Torres could slide back over to second base, where he appears to be a better fit defensively. Lindor also adds some lineup balance as a switch-hitter. Ultimately, he’s a great player, great fit, and a joy to watch. What more could you want?