Yankees Trade Target: Francisco Lindor

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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.

Injury History

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.

Contract

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?

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12 Comments

  1. Bam Bam

    MTPS. Judge for Lindor. I know – it sounds nuts but the reality is the Yankees aren’t signing Judge long term. Cleveland gets a player with two years left on his deal… and can flip Judge at the deadline for a big return. Cleveland would really have THREE chances to cash in on Judge’s value (2021 deadline, 2021 offseason, 2022 deadline).

    The Yanks can slot Frazier in RF. Torres moves to 2B. Lindor at SS. I’d still re-sign DJ and play him at either 3B or 1B. Trade Urshela or Voit. Their values may never be higher. Use those chips to upgrade the rotation. I’d part with Voit. LF can be a combination of Gardner/Andujar/Stanton.

    What’s the upside? You add a switch hitting HR threat in Lindor with a far lower K-rate than Judge. Voit’s K rate is also high. You’ve replaced that w/ DJ. Losing Judge would suck – but he can’t stay healthy. DJ and Lindor still give you power and the bat-to-ball skills necessary in the postseason. You’ve also improved defense at SS and 1B. Frazier isn’t Judge in RF – but he was a gold glove finalist and made considerable strides there.

  2. Mike Basso Sr

    Why even think of trading DJ

  3. DanGer

    Not So Fun Fact: In 2011 the Yankees drafted Dante Bichette Jr., one pick ahead of Blake Snell

  4. Wire Fan

    This is going back a ways but didn’t Cashman say he won’t pay twice for a player (Johan Santana) – prospects/talent to acquire the player and then $$ to extend them.

    While Lindor would be a great fit, I think if Cashman goes for him it will be as a FA (if he makes it to FA)

    • DanGer

      Counter argument, Yankees didn’t pay either time for Santana because he signed an extension.

      Cashman’s other calling card is passing on a premium player and waiting to sign *their* guy.
      Santana/CC
      Darvish/Tanaka
      Corbin/Cole, etc.

  5. Mungo

    Cleveland will almost assuredly want a MLB-ready talent for Lindor. That is their history. Some teams may go all in on prospects, especially if they’re planning a rebuild, but that’s not been Cleveland’s history overall. They often want at least one of the players to help them now. That trade value tool is always fun, but I’m not a big fan of it. Regardless, I’m thinking Andújar would be to their liking. They can either have him focus fully on LF or focus fully on first base. I think he can handle either, but he needs reps.

    A bit funny (to me) on how these trade proposals are all over the place. I was reading MLBTR’s chat transcript from yesterday, and a fan asked if the Indians would take Voit as part of a Lindor deal. The host responded I’m sure they’d be interested, but not as the primary piece. So, yeah, the MLBTR guy thinks Voit would be a secondary piece! Uhh, no. He is way off. Voit has a 143 OPS+ and has an argument as the best-hitting 1B’man in the league and in the top five in MLB. He has four more years of control. He’s actually too much to give up for one year of Lindor. I’d consider moving Voit as part of a package for Lindor and a controllable pitcher. At that point, the Yankees might want to consider putting Andujar at first base.

    • Nick

      Voit strikes me as the kind of player that is going to bring back a disappointing return if he’s ever moved. DH/1B type players are generally more valuable to their current team than they are as trade bait. I think you’d be surprised at Cleveland’s reaction if Voit was offered straight up for Lindor.

    • Erick

      Put Gleyber at first.and DJ at second.

  6. I'm Not The Droids You're Looking For

    Would we sign him for $300 million? Does that impact our aggressiveness to make the trade?

  7. James Gargiola

    Every time we have the best(Lindor)we lose him?whats wrong people?The less I watch baseball when that happens.

  8. Hell yea, THIS is the hot stove content I am here for!! Idk where I read it (either here or an Axisa blog) but someone said any trade you propose for Lindor that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach before hitting the “Post Comment” button is probably not enough. However, the Yankees got Stanton for a bag of balls when he was coming off a career year so who the hell knows what its gonna cost to get Lindor. But in my opinion as long as it doesn’t cost pitching depth I’ll be ok with whatever trade they put together. Just go get him

  9. Nick

    I think we can forgive anyone who was distracted by the news the entire world was watching last week… I know I’ll always remember what I was doing when the news of Robbie Ray resigning with the Blue Jays dropped.

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