Cleveland took a page from the Red Sox by trading Francisco Lindor
For the second offseason in a row, a massive trade involving a superstar has been completed. Don’t worry Red Sox Nation, this time it happened in Cleveland. A majority of people in the baseball industry knew that a trade involving Indians franchise cornerstone Francisco Lindor was inevitable. The details involving where he would be traded and for what were oft-debated, with several considering the Mets to be among the logical fits.
At long last, that deal came to fruition, as the Indians traded Lindor along with veteran starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the Mets for Amed Rosario and a slew of prospects. The return to Cleveland is already being dissected by many evaluators in the industry, with many using the framework of last year’s Mookie Betts trade as a blueprint to compare and contrast the return.
The first thing to consider when comparing the Lindor trade to the Betts trade last year is the aforementioned headliners, particularly, the performance of each respective player. Betts finished his 2019 season with a slash line of .295/.391/.524 along with being named an All-Star, winning a Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and finishing eighth in the American League MVP race.
Overall, he was worth 6.8 WAR during his 2019 year, good for 12th best in the MLB. Hence, he was coming off a fantastic year, and if there was ever a time to trade Boston’s former face of the franchise, it was that winter.
Fast forward nearly a year later and yet another franchise icon has been dealt in the form of Lindor. There are several factors that should be considered when weighing the financial situations that each franchise was in. One team (the Red Sox) had the money to re-sign their franchise icon and chose not to in order to get in the good graces of the CBT threshold. The other team (the Indians) clearly did not have the financial flexibility to pursue an extension with their shortstop and did the very best under the circumstances.
For the sake of the shortened 2020 season, both Lindor’s 2019 and 2020 numbers will be included to compare the shortstop’s stock going into this offseason. In 2019, Lindor produced a slash of .284/.335/.518, the shortstop was named an All-Star, won a Gold Glove, and came in 15th place for the American League MVP.
He accumulated 4.7 WAR, good for 43rd in the league. Cleveland opted to hold on to him going into 2020 even after the team had been in discussions with numerous teams last offseason. This past season, Lindor’s numbers regressed to the tune of a .258/.335/.415 line.
A combination of a mediocre showing in 2020, entering a contract year, and many teams taking a conservative approach with payroll this offseason slimmed Lindor’s market down considerably. Teams looking to trade for the shortstop seemingly had the upper hand knowing that Cleveland was in a difficult situation.
The uneasiness going into next season and the club’s public willingness to trade the shortstop would eventually lead the team to succumb to the pressure of getting more than just a draft pick next offseason.
The eventual trade between Cleveland and New York saw the Indians not only give up their star shortstop but yet another starting pitcher in the form of longtime-Indian, Carrasco. The team was able to achieve its goal of shedding payroll, saving $44 million in the transaction. All things considered, Cleveland was able to get a decent haul for Lindor.
In addition to getting an immediate replacement at shortstop in Rosario, the Indians are also receiving two of New York’s Top-10 prospects in No. 3 (Gimenez), No. 10 (Wolf), followed by a third prospect who ranks No. 11 (Greene) according to MLB.com.
As for Boston, The Red Sox ultimately traded Mookie and David Price to the Dodgers for a package of Alex Verdugo, as well as, prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. Downs is now ranked 2nd in Boston’s farm system and Wong 21st per SoxProspects.com.
Even after the trade, Boston’s farm system still ranked No. 20 at the midseason checkpoint this past season, implying that the team’s future is in desperate need of complementary pieces to reinforce the eventual talent from the farm system.
In trading both Betts and Price, the team was able to shed about $43 million and acquire MLB-ready talent to go with two high-potential prospects. The return Boston got in the form of Verdugo paid off, as the right fielder was one of (if not the most) productive members of the 2020 Red Sox team. Both Downs and Wong are projected to make their MLB debut’s sometime in 2021 (although the lack of a Minor League season might push those debuts back).
Trading Betts was one of the toughest decisions newly named frontman Chaim Bloom had to do as he inherited a very messy Boston team with bloated contracts and open voids to fill. By pulling the trigger on trading Betts, he risked the gamble of losing him for nothing as free agency loomed, along with having to find a different way to offload at least some of Price’s salary.
By finding a partner willing to exchange young assets along with taking on some of Price’s big salary, he was able to make the most of a bad situation with his eyes set on the future. Acquiring the No. 40 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top-100 in addition to Verdugo who had MLB experience, he was able to get off to a jump-start.
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Each team saved a near-identical amount of money as a result of each trade. While Cleveland is not financially obligated to pay any future salaries for the two players who departed for New York, they did not walk away with as much value in terms of prospects. Newly acquired prospects Josh Wolf has slid into the No. 12 slot in Cleveland’s system while Isaiah Greene is regarded as the Indians No. 16 top prospects per MLB Pipeline.
Neither is expected to debut until at least 2023. Quantity over quality appears to be the approach Cleveland has taken in their last few blockbusters, as they acquired six players when they traded Mike Clevinger to the Padres this past summer. In the Mets deal, the Indians did manage to net a solid asset in young shortstop Andres Gimenez and will hope that Rosario can continue to be a league-average middle infielder.
Both Cleveland and Boston fans have/will continue to experience the emotional turmoil that losing fan favorites. Financially speaking, Cleveland saved as much money as Boston had without having to eat money for a player on another team, but the return Boston received in both Verdugo and Jeter Downs would seemingly justify that Boston came out on top.