Francisco Lindor has been a rather hot topic this offseason for the otherwise silent Cleveland Indians. As the team’s division rivals get stronger, the AL, in general, progresses, and the Indians’ bank account (as usual) remains untouched, what is the plan with Francisco Lindor?
For now, let’s set aside “the Indians should do this, the Indians should do that” and evaluate what the Indians NEED to do.
It’s quite simple really. There are only two options the club can afford to take before Opening Day:
1. Trade Lindor and begin a rebuild…
This one is the more complex and arguably the most rational route to explore. The plan, at a premise, is simple; ship Lindor off, get a massive haul of prospects to rebuild with, then start the fire sale. Win probably 70 games this season, build up the young guns, and hope to use the team’s promising farm system, along with the Lindor haul, to get another season or two down the road of prominence. Where it gets to be more complex is this – the team can’t just suck forever, so without Lindor, how does the team eventually rise again to contending status? Clearly, a lot of weight is put on the farm and prospects received for Lindor to eventually re-ignite that fire. Even top prospects can flame out fantastically in the MLB, so this is by no means a risk-free option. However, it is a commitment on the Indians to a direction as a franchise, which they currently lack, which should at least instill some hope in the fans.
2. …Or re-sign Lindor and build-up to win now
The more simplistic, but overall riskier, trickier, and probably not the smartest decision to take up. This plan is also fairly simple; re-sign Lindor to a bunch of years, and then grab some pieces off free agency and via trades, in order to face off with the rest of the AL to get to the promised land. Despite how chaotic this offseason has been for them, the Astros and Red Sox aren’t going anywhere. The Yankees also just got a lot better this offseason, so simply re-signing Lindor by itself doesn’t suffice; the team needs to gear up to actually stand up to these teams. This is overall less likely than the first option, as the team’s front office and ownership have continually shown a lack of desire to spend money on a competitive product. However, if they do this, just like the first option, it would show an actual willingness to commit to a direction as a franchise, which would be huge.
Why are these the only options the team can take?
If the team loses Lindor to free agency for nothing, the fallout would be beyond catastrophic. They either have to get something for him, with which to rebuild and eventually get back to the playoffs, or they have to commit to him as the face of the franchise moving forward and try to win while his best years of baseball and value are at their highest. In general, the Indians need to commit to something as a team, instill some kind of order and direction in their franchise, and show the fans that higher management of the team in general is still competent. It’s not about making a decision the fans like, it’s about actually making a decision and commitment so that the fans (and players) know that they actually exist.
For these reasons, options #1 and #2 are the only feasible options for the Indians to remain a respectable organization.