Baseball

Indians Spotlight: If It Can Be Anyone, Is It Francisco Lindor?

It’ a little disjointed, or even unfair, to connect the Cubs to this series and the Indians. But as we propel into Chicago baseball’s harsh winter, one has to ask this question. If it’s possible that the Cubs would listen, and even consider, trading Kris Bryant this winter, will the Indians do the same with Francisco Lindor? No, of course not, you dope. Because he’s kind of half the offense at the moment and probably will remain that way. Or would they?

Lindor is in the same contract situation as Bryant, and has shown the same inclination to sign an extension with the Tribe that Bryant has with the Cubs. He’s got two years of arbitration left, which should see him inch pretty close to if not over $20M in the second year. And unlike the Cubs, Cleveland may just decide they simply can’t afford him as a free agent, instead of simply won’t. Then again, any team can afford him.

It’s been something of a strange campaign for Frankie, as he looked set for stratospheric stardom last year and hasn’t matched that. He was a seven-WAR player last year, but won’t get to five this term. In fact, it shapes up to be his worst season since his rookie year, when he only played 99 games. And offensively, it’s his worst since his second.

Part of the problem is that Lindor’s power just hasn’t risen with the rest of baseball. He’s still got 31 homers, which for a shortstop you’d take every damn time. But he had 38 last year, and now they’re using the flubber-ball, and he’s got 31. His slugging has only risen eight points to .527, which again, no one is complaining about, and would be a career-high. And yet, with everything going on in the league, you wonder if it shouldn’t have ticked up more.

It doesn’t seem to be a question of luck. Lindor’s BABIP has actually gone up this year, and he has the same exact HR/FB rate as last year. He’s hitting the ball just as hard as well, it’s just more of it is on the ground by a good measure.

Part of the problem is that Lindor has been more consistently attacked with offspeed pitches this year, and has struggled mightily against change-ups. He’s hit only .240 against them this year as opposed to .308 in ’18. And he’s been just as bad on curveballs, though he had that problem last year as well. He’s also seen a 10-point jump in his whiffs/swing on sliders.

As a left-handed hitter, Lindor has seen his walk-rate plummet to 5%, sinking his overall one. He just isn’t getting on base quite as much as he did.

All that said, Lindor is still one of the game’s best, and just about anyone would give up the moon to have him (Javy Baez must dream of the double play combination, and we do as well). Cleveland has never had a reputation for keeping its stars since the 90s. And two years of control means Lindor is at his peak value this coming winter, especially as he’ll be just 26 next season.

But would they consider such a thing? Depends. The rotation actually seems set for a while with Clevinger and Bieber at the top of it and developed plugs like Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale. Corey Kluber‘s injury problems, age, and contract status have lowered his value a touch, though with $17M and $18M options still left he’s still good value if he can get back to anything close to what he was. We know the Tribe listened last offseason, but didn’t find anything to their liking.

The Tribe have a bats problem though, especially as they may never know what they’ll get out of Jose Ramirez from day-to-day, much less year-to-year. But he’s signed cheap through 2023. Will Jake Bauers help one day? Naquin? No one’s sure. Clearly Lindor would bring back two or three major pieces, and probably ones Major League-ready.

But still, it seems way too drastic. He’s the face of the team, and the Tribe don’t draw as it is. Or maybe that’s the reasoning. No one gives a fuck anyway, so how much worse can it get? Still, Lindors are never traded for equal value.

If Cleveland laughs at the idea of moving Lindor, and there’s nothing to suggest otherwise, it’s patently ridiculous the Cubs aren’t doing the same over Bryant.

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