The Cleveland Indians are looking to trade Francisco Lindor, and no team could offer a better package of players and salary relief than the New York Mets.
It’s long been rumored that the Cleveland Indians are getting ready to move on from Francisco Lindor. The superstar shortstop is set to make over $21 million in arbitration in 2021 and hit free agency the year after. That’s too big a financial responsibility for the Indians, even before COVID-19 hit. According to reports, the Indians have no signaled to they’re moving on from Lindor this offseason.
Cleveland, strapped for money, intend to trade All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor by opening day, several rival teams have been informed. Lindor earned $17.5 million last season and is projected to earn about $21 million in salary arbitration in his final year before free agency
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 5, 2020
The New York Mets immediately stand out as a potential trade partner. With Steve Cohen coming in as the new Mets owner, they are going to spend this offseason. Lindor offers a rare opportunity to use that cash to get one of the three best position players in the sport.
The fit is too perfect to ignore.
The New York Mets and Francisco Lindor
On the surface, it’s easy to make the argument that the Mets don’t need Francisco Lindor. They have Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez set at shortstop, and adding Lindor would be a waste of resources. There’s some truth to that argument.
The Mets don’t need a shortstop the same way they need a centerfielder or a catcher, but Lindor is a special player. Since debuting in 2015, he’s third in MLB in fWAR, only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout have been better.
He’s arguably the best defensive shortstop in MLB on top of being an offensive dynamo. Lindor has been worth, or on pace for, at least four fWAR in every season of his career. The last time the Mets had a position player worth over four fWAR in back to back seasons was David Wright in 2012 and 2013.
Lindor would provide a caliber of player the Mets haven’t had in nearly a decade. That alone makes him a fit, but it’s not the only thing.
Rosario had a down year in 2020 and has been incredibly inconsistent offensively throughout his career. It’s possible he lost his starting shortstop job to Gimenez already. He shouldn’t factor into a decision to trade for Lindor.
Gimenez, on the other hand, is a part of the Mets’ future. The good news for the Mets is Gimenez can play second base and third base at an elite level defensively. He doesn’t need to play shortstop to provide value.
If the designated hitter remains in the National League the Mets could make Robinson Cano the permanent DH and stick Gimenez at second base full time. If there’s no designated hitter, it’s harder to fit him into the lineup.
Jeff McNeil will likely play third base every day. If the Mets acquire a centerfielder this offseason, that also means Dom Smith, Brandon Nimmo, and J.D. Davis would be fighting for playing time alongside Gimenez.
The good news is the Mets wouldn’t be that bunched up after making the Lindor trade as at least one major league player would have to be dealt.
What would it cost?
This is the ultimate question, isn’t it? Even if Lindor is a phenomenal player, it’ll all come down to whether a trade makes sense. The Mets have the pieces to make a trade, but will they willingly part with them?
The Indians are going to ask for some heavy pieces, likely two from the Mets’ current roster and a top prospect. The name that immediately comes to mind is Andres Gimenez.
Centering a deal around Gimenez could make sense for both sides, but why would the Mets move a top young player when they don’t have to? They have other players to center the deal around—namely, Brandon Nimmo.
The Indians have been desperate for outfield help for years. They’ve tried everything they can to fix their outfield; Nimmo would go a long way towards that goal. Despite what large swaths of the Mets’ fan base says, Nimmo is an All-Star caliber player.
He was worth 4.5 fWAR when he was healthy in 2018. Despite injuries, he was worth 1.3 fWAR in 69 games in 2019, pace for about three fWAR over the same number of at-bats he had in 2018. In 2020, he was worth 1.5 fWAR in 55 games, pace for 3.6 fWAR.
Those are the numbers he puts up when playing one of the worst defensive center fields in MLB. If he plays a corner outfield spot where his defense is much improved, he’d likely be a four fWAR player or better.
So why would the Mets trade him? Well, they’re on the lookout for improved defense in centerfield and could target the likes of George Springer or Jackie Bradley Jr. to play every day. They can’t move him over the left-field either because they have that spot locked down by Dom Smith and/or J.D. Davis.
The issue with starting a deal with Nimmo is that he’s only under contract for two seasons. If the Mets built a deal around Nimmo, Rosario, and their top prospect Ronny Mauricio it might not be enough because of his contract length.
If that’s the case, the Mets may be forced to add Dom Smith to the deal. They would likely want to hang onto Mauricio in any deal including Smith. Instead, look for them to add a lower ranked prospect such as Mark Vientos to the deal instead to balance it out.
Smith is under contract for four more seasons and is a rising star in MLB. He can play left field for the Indians if they wish, but he’d likely play first base, but he could be a gold glove defender at first base. His bat broke out in a huge way off the bench in 2019 and as a starter in 2020, which likely means the offensive output is real. Dom Smith could be a star in the making.
Would the Mets be willing to deal Smith? It’s hard to know, but Sandy Alderson would likely like to hang onto the player he took in his first draft as the Mets’ general manager.
The last option the Mets have is to try and center a deal around J.D. Davis and Andres Gimenez. The pair are less known commodities than Smith and Nimmo, but have high enough upside and enough years of control to entice them. This package would likely cost the Mets Mauricio as well.
The price for Francisco Lindor will be high, but the Mets have the piece to get a deal done if they want to. Is Lindor worth the pieces that Mets may have to give up? If the deal doesn’t include Dom Smith, the answer is probably yes.