Francisco Lindor is still controlled by the Cleveland Indians through the 2021 season, but there is not time like the present to extend his contract.
With two seasons of league minimum contracts on the way for Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, he will be arbitration eligible in 2019. However, if the Tribe chooses, they can extend the shortstop’s contract before the arbitration years hit, meaning his new contract could take affect at the start of the 2019 season.
With approximately a season and a half of MLB experience under his belt, Lindor has already cemented himself as one of the league’s premier shortstops.
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Even though Lindor was Cleveland’s top prospect for most of his tenure in the farm system, there were questions about how his offensive game would translate to the big leagues. However, his .306/.356/.454 slash line through 257 career games, a second place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year race in 2015, and an all-star selection in 2016 suggest that he has transitioned seamlessly.
How his defense would translate to the majors was never a question, though few could have predicted that he would be as good of a defender as he has been. Already a finalist for the Gold Glove award, Lindor has displayed an uncanny ability to prevent runs with his glove. He has already totaled 24 fielding runs above average according to Baseball-Reference, meaning he was worth about 24 runs based on the amount of plays he made.
Team president Chris Antonetti seems amenable to an extension, according to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com:
"“[Lindor] would be among the group of players that we could consider that for. I think we’ve demonstrated a track record of looking at guys in different junctures in their career, including really early on, to consider extensions. Now, for that to happen, and for us to get those done, there needs to be interest on both sides.”"
With the Indians being a small market team, it is essential to their success to secure top-level talent for long periods of time for as little money as possible. To do this, the club signs players who are young and still in the early years of their careers to long-term, inexpensive contracts. Most recently, we have seen the team do so with the likes of Jason Kipnis, Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, and Yan Gomes, just to name a few.
Now would be the perfect time to secure Lindor longterm. Either way, Cleveland will be paying him the league minimum through the 2018 season. But if the Tribe were to get a contract extension done now, it would not go into affect until the 2019 season, avoiding arbitration.
Since Lindor is still young and arguments can still be made that he is not a finished product and still could ultimately fail as a major league player, the Indians can sign him to a contract that is much smaller than what he will most likely be worth.
By doing this, the Indians save money on a potential perennial all-star talent and keep him under control longterm.
Even though the Indians have other contract situations to worry about – such as that of Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis – they could slowly start having these discussions with Lindor. While it would appear to be a smart move, I don’t expect anything to get done this offseason. However, next offseason seems a real possibility. When the contract does get signed, expect it to be in the five to six year range, and costing in the neighborhood of about $7-9 million annually.