Finding a fit for Francisco Lindor: Who could pull off a blockbuster deal with Cleveland?

Francisco Lindor is going to get traded — for real this time.

Cleveland’s shortstop, best player and ever-smiling face of the franchise has been mentioned in trade rumors for years now because of Cleveland’s penny-pinching ownership. The will-they-or-won’t-they trade fate of Lindor seems much more certain this winter.

Lindor is heading into his final season before free agency, and the Indians don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime fast, so it would be the shocker of the offseason if the team that traded Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger earlier in arbitration didn’t make a rental out of Lindor.

No matter who gets him, they’re getting a good one. He’s a skilled fielder who can do it all at the plate and can be the engine any offense needs. You know Mookie Betts? Well, he could be the shortstop version.

The narrative might be the same too. Betts was traded to L.A. in his final year before free agency from a Red Sox team that, for some reason, didn’t want to pay their best player. Red Sox fans were even more bummed when the Dodgers handed Betts a 12-year, $365 million contract extension.

Lindor — and his potential suitors — could be angling for something similar for the 27-year-old. Particularly if the team that lands him thinks he’ll push them over the edge to a championship like Betts did the Dodgers.

Here are some of those landing spots, how Lindor would fit and whether they have what it takes to get a deal done.

Francisco Lindor is widely expected to be traded this offseason.
Francisco Lindor is widely expected to be traded this offseason. (Photo by Harrison Barden/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

New York Mets

Could the Mets, the most interesting team of the offseason, also make a run at Lindor? Get ready, because they’ll be linked to almost every interesting player now. Here’s how they match up with Lindor:

  • Fit: The Mets have shortstops in Amed Rosario and 22-year-old Andrés Giménez, so Lindor isn’t filling a clear need on the depth chart. But he is in the face-of-the-franchise department. Put him next to Pete Alonso and you might have the most likable duo in MLB.

  • Re-signability: This is what makes the Mets one of the most alluring destinations. They can absolutely afford to give Lindor a huge extension with new billionaire owner Steve Cohen signing the checks. Heck, giving Lindor the Betts treatment would be the bow on top of his first offseason as owner.

  • Return: The tricky part for the Mets comes if Cleveland is looking for a big-name prospect, because the Mets don’t really have any. All their top-rated youngsters are in A-ball. So a Lindor trade would then likely include big-league players. Giménez could be included in a potential deal. The versatile and already productive Jeff McNeil would be a huge get for Cleveland, but may be too useful a player to move for one year of Lindor. Still, this is the part where things start to make less sense. Money, the Mets have. Trade bait, they’re lacking.

New York Yankees

Could the Yankees, always star-chasing, win the Lindor sweepstakes? Because they’re the Yankees and they’re always a suitor for a big name, here’s how they match up with Lindor:

  • Fit: The Yankees also don’t have a clear need at shortstop, with Gleyber Torres theoretically slotted in there. But for a team that hasn’t won a title since 2009, the pressure is mounting for Aaron Boone’s bunch. So Lindor gives them additional punch in their lineup if they’re willing to shift Torres, who endured some defensive struggles there, to a different position for a year (or possibly longer). It would be much like how the Dodgers didn’t *need* Mookie Betts, but he sure helped them over the hump.

  • Re-signability: This is the Yankees, of course, they can re-sign him. But, out of these teams, they’re probably the most content to just rent Lindor for a possible title run if the price is right.

  • Return: The Yankees have a couple of established big-leaguers who could make a deal for Lindor alluring — 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andújar and high-potential outfielder Clint Frazier. (If you remember, Frazier was drafted by Cleveland and traded to the Yankees for Andrew Miller.) There are prospects to dangle too, so finding the right return is probably possible, depending on one year of Lindor is valued.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Could the Dodgers, the defending champs, go full super-team and land Lindor a year after landing Betts? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: Lindor would cause some shuffling in the L.A. infield too, as Corey Seager is the Dodgers’ shortstop. But with Justin Turner a free agent at third base, Seager could shift over and make room for Lindor. This really would be an embarrassment of riches in L.A. because they don’t need Lindor at all, but they’ve been linked to him for years.

  • Re-signability: The Dodgers aren’t poor either and can pay the money to keep Lindor around if they wanted to. But coming off the Betts deal, with Seager hitting free agency after 2021 and Cody Bellinger’s free agency on the horizon, Lindor might be an unneeded luxury. A case of “just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.”

  • Return: The Dodgers didn’t want to give up either Dustin May or Gavin Lux to get Mookie Betts. They probably wouldn’t want to for Lindor either — particularly not May, but maybe the luster of Lux has worn off after a rough 2020? And if Dodgers can find a way to get Betts and Lindor without giving up either of those players, then Andrew Friedman deserves some kind of award. But maybe that would be another World Series trophy.

Philadelphia Phillies

Could the Phillies, who just changed over their front office, make a Lindor trade their big offseason splash? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: This might be less a question of where Lindor fits into the Phillies roster and more of how he fits into new team president Dave Dombrowski’s vision of remaking the Phillies. And frankly, yes to both. Dombrowski’s rep is trading for big-name players and getting rid of prospects. It’s almost textbook. Likewise, Lindor fills the hole left by free agent Didi Gregorius, and pairs well with Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins to create a potent Phillly lineup.

  • Re-signability: Where there isn’t a fit is re-signability. Ownership wants to curb spending after a couple lavish offseasons. Of course, not spending money isn’t Dombrowski’s M.O. So a Lindor trade could help the team right away without spending big, while also giving Dombrowski time to warm up ownership to the notion of handing out another $300 million deal.

  • Return: The Phillies have a list of MLB-ready or almost-ready prospects that could appeal to the savvy Cleveland front office. If a prospect shopping list is what they’re after, the Phillies could be one of the best trade partners.

Toronto Blue Jays

Could the Blue Jays, home of MLB’s second-generation stars, add Lindor as their biggest name and build on their surprise 2020 season? Here’s how they match up:

  • Fit: The Jays have Bo Bichette at shortstop, but could shift him over to third base and create a super infield with Vlad Guerrero Jr. at first and Cavan Biggio at second base (or put him at second and let Biggio roam as a superutility type). Lindor gives the Blue Jays a superstar presence in their lineup who can help these young stars-to-be meet their potential.

  • Re-signability: The Blue Jays don’t have a lot of money on the books for the next few years beyond Hyun-Jin Ryu, who they signed last offseason. Their payroll sits at about $70M for 2021, which leaves plenty of wiggle room. If Lindor likes Toronto and wants to stay there, they would seem to have the money to spend to keep him around.

  • Return: The Blue Jays have prospects to trade and cheaper (read: Cleveland-friendly) major-league talent to include in a deal, so it could work. The question on this one is whether Lindor would want to sign an extension and what the Blue Jays — who aren’t on the cusp of a World Series — are willing to give up without the assurance that he’d stick around.

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