Trying to project exactly what will happen during this MLB offseason is a fool's errand, but one thing we do know is that teams are claiming major losses following a season impacted by COVID-19. This will likely inform every decision we see, including non-tenders, signings, and trades. The Indians already gave an indication about their approach last week when they placed closer Brad Hand on waivers coming off a year where he led the majors in saves. That could just be the tip of the iceberg.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Indians “intend to trade” shortstop Francisco Lindor. Nightengale notes that “several rival teams” have been informed about the Indians’ plans and that the club is “strapped for money.” Indians owner Larry Dolan and family reportedly have a net worth of $4.6 billion, so it’s easy to guffaw at that classification, but the fact is that Lindor has one year of team control remaining and an extension has never appeared likely.
Lindor turns 27 later this month and batted .258/.335/.415 with eight home runs, 27 RBI, and six steals over 60 games this past season. He’s likely due to make around $21 million in his final year of arbitration.
2020 was Lindor’s least productive season to date, but he had an .840 career OPS coming into the year and topped 30 homers in each of the previous three seasons. That track record should give him the benefit of the doubt. And that’s not even taking his defense into account, which has been consistently elite.
It’s easy to draw the parallel to the Red Sox/Mookie Betts situation from last offseason, as he was also one year away from free agency. Lindor’s scenario might not follow the same script, though, as the Dodgers also took back David Price’s contract in the deal. Of course, the Dodgers eventually signed Betts to a 12-year, $365 million extension, but that wasn’t a certainty at the time of the trade. As of now, teams will only be trading for one year of Lindor.
With the acknowledgment of the unprecedented landscape of this offseason, let’s run through some of the likely suitors...
Mets: With new owner Steve Cohen at the helm, anything is possible. They are already being mentioned with most of the top free agents, but Lindor could easily fit on this roster for 2021 and beyond. The Mets could also offer a replacement at shortstop for Cleveland with Amed Rosario or Andres Gimenez as part of a possible return package.
Yankees: Could this be a New York battle for Lindor? Maybe. The Yankees could have somewhat of a boring offseason by their usual standards if they simply retain their own free agents and maybe add another starting pitcher, but there’s always the chance they go way off the board. Acquiring Lindor might mean that DJ LeMahieu wouldn’t return. Some have speculated on Gleyber Torres as part of a potential return package for Cleveland, but that’s not a sure thing. The Yankees could always just flip Torres back to second base.
Angels: Just call this #OperationHelpMikeTrout. It’s a fun possibility to think about, as the Angels have the prospects to pull of a deal. They also have an opening at shortstop with Andrelton Simmons hitting free agency, but this isn’t a necessity. Their biggest need remains starting pitching. And they could always just have David Fletcher play shortstop.
Phillies: The Phillies would surely love to keep both JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius, but this would likely only be an option if those plans fall through. Part of the calculation for the Phillies might be that Realmuto would only cost money while Lindor would cost prospects with no promise of keeping him beyond 2021. The Phillies might not have the prospects to hang with some of the other teams in the mix. It’s hard to believe the club could afford mega-deals for Harper, Realmuto, and Lindor, so something has to give here.
Blue Jays: There’s an obvious connection here with Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins. The Blue Jays also have plenty of payroll flexibility and quality depth in terms of prospects and young players. Bo Bichette is quickly emerging as one of the better shortstops in the league, but adding Lindor would be a nice problem to have. Besides, they have an opening at third base right now.
Dodgers: Say hello to the wild card. The Dodgers don’t necessarily *need* Lindor — you might have noticed that Corey Seager is pretty decent — but that doesn’t mean we can rule out the possibility. Keep in mind that Justin Turner is a free agent this offseason, so filling third base is an option. It’s hard to imagine Turner signing elsewhere, so this is mostly an interesting scenario to ponder.
Bauer Declines Qualifying Offer
As expected, Trevor Bauer’s agent, Rachel Luba, announced on Twitter on Wednesday that her client is rejecting the Reds’ one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer. Bauer was one of six players who received qualifying offers last week, along with George Springer (Astros), J.T. Realmuto (Phillies), DJ LeMahieu (Yankees), Marcus Stroman (Mets), and Kevin Gausman (Giants).
Bauer was named as a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award earlier this week. It would be a surprise if he didn’t win it after posting a 1.73 ERA and 100/17 K/BB ratio in 73 innings across 11 starts this season. Bauer, who turns 30 in January, has reconsidered his previous comments of going year-to-year with his contracts. And that’s understandable after the sort of season he just had. He’s one of a select group of players who project to land a contract north of $100 million this offseason.
Players who received qualifying offers have until next Thursday at 5 p.m. ET to accept or decline. Of this group, Gausman has the strongest case to stay put. Stroman is another interesting one after not pitching this past season, but Mike Puma of the New York Post reported late Thursday that he was leaning toward rejecting.
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Silver Slugger Award Winners Announced:
*1st time winner
Quick Hits: Trey Mancini (cancer) has resumed swinging a bat. … Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports that the Red Sox are deciding between Alex Cora and Sam Fuld for their managerial vacancy. … The Orioles acquired INFs Greg Cullen and AJ Graffanino from the Braves to complete the Tommy Milone trade. … The Royals acquired minor league right-hander Dylan Coleman from the Padres to complete the Trevor Rosenthal trade. … The Athletics acquired prospect outfielder Junior Perez from the Padres to complete the Jorge Mateo trade. … The Diamondbacks acquired minor league infielder Ronny Simon from the Cubs to complete the Andrew Chafin trade. … The Phillies acquired RHP Rodolfo Sanchez from the Rays as the player to be named later in the Edgar Garcia trade. … The Mariners signed RHPs Gerson Bautista, Matt Magill, and Brady Lail to minor league contracts. … The Nationals re-signed RHP Aaron Barrett to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.