Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor Speaks at Tribe Fest

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /

The biggest topic all off-season for the Cleveland Indians has been the future of shortstop Francisco Lindor. This past week, Lindor spoke on his future for the first time.

Since November, the biggest question about the Cleveland Indians has centered around Francisco Lindor. Will they trade him? Will they re-sign him? Who will they trade him to? When will they trade him?

At this past week’s Tribe Fest, Lindor was present and spoke to the media for the first time, providing a glimpse into his thought process. There are two distinct quotes that we should look into further. The first is obvious: how much will it cost to keep Lindor?

In a Lindor quote from TribeFest, and

"“If they don’t think I can stay here because of the money situation, then I won’t be here,” Lindor said. “But I do want to be in Cleveland. I love the Indians, I love their fans. The city has grown on me a lot. When it is the right time to sign an extension? I don’t know when it’s the right time. God has a plan for me and my family and I truly believe in it. What’s going to happen is going to happen. Do I want $500 million? Of course, anybody wants that. I don’t care who you are, you could be a billionaire and you’d still want that. It’s just a matter of time, we’ll see.”"

A few takeaways that should stand out quickly. The first is, Lindor is putting the blame on the Indians organization to offer the “right price.” This is a known issue that Indians fans have been anticipating already. The Indians have a history of not being able to re-sign their biggest stars during their biggest paydays. Examples include Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Bartolo Colon, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and most recently Victor Martinez.

The star of Lindor is arguably bigger than all of those prior Indians stars. Lindor is one of the top five players in baseball. The contracts all around him are skyrocketing. Will he get Mike Trout money in the $426 million range over 12 years? Perhaps not. Perhaps Trout is the absolute ceiling based on his production and age. However, it’s fair that Lindor should be seeking more than the 13 years and $330 million Bryce Harper received last year. Lindor has put up better numbers than Harper, and has the potential in a major market to be just as marketable.

This isn’t an argument for or against the “home team discount.” This is taking stock from a business perspective, what he should be base-lining his asking price and years from ANY team. My best guess-timate is that it will take at least $350 million to have Lindor in the ballpark of his peers like Mookie Betts and Javy Baez.

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The slightly lesser line of importance in Lindor’s quote was that it doesn’t sound like he’s taken any time to actually consider an offer. While that seems unfair or disrespectful on the surface, I take it a little differently. He’s singularly focused, and barring a major injury, it would be silly to not get to free agency and at least see what offers exist. Nobody in their current job would decline a promotion if you knew one was coming very soon.

What is fair to the Indians is that they have every chance to impress him day-to-day. Their offer will be part of the first offers he receives. I truly believe Lindor just wants to get to free agency to see what the world looks like then. He’s earned that much, but it doesn’t mean he’s discounted the Indians. It’s just a smart business decision on his part.

Now lets look at the non-money portion of Lindor’s comments. Per Mandy Bell for

"“Wherever I go, I want to win. I want to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland. This is what I want to do. That’s my mission. I’m here today and I want to win for the Indians. It has nothing to do with the money. It has nothing to do with the years. It has nothing to do with who I like or who I don’t like. It has to do with championships. The front office tries to put a team together to win, not to save money. They’re supposed to try to put a team together to win. I’m here to try to win.”"

So the two pieces for Lindor to sign are money and championships. Have the Indians done enough to prove they are legitimate contenders? Since Lindor debuted in 2015, the Indians have averaged 92.2 wins each season. In that time they have made the playoffs three times, and the World Series once.

Each season, the Indians have made significant trades during the season to help the team make a run. Such mid-season additions include Andrew Miller, Yasiel Puig, Josh Donaldson, Jay Bruce, and Franmil Reyes. The front office has proven time and time again that they will not punt on a season if the team is in contention.

There is one problem. Has the team overachieved in spite of the front office to become contenders? Making the World Series with a short-handed team only netted the front office enough flexibility to add Edwin Encarnacion after his price went down. Had he gotten a fair market offer, the Indians would have followed up their World Series run with minimal improvements.

Knowing that they have a team that can contend with its strong and seemingly endless starting pitching, they’ve only swapped out backup catchers, starting second basemen, and added a variety of outfield flavors. If you were Lindor trying to win this season, what is your perception entering the clubhouse? The team is a contender, but only if you play at an elite superstar level the entire way until more help will arrive.

It isn’t all on the front office though. This 2020 Cleveland Indians will definitely lean on Lindor, but also seek consistency from his running mate Jose Ramirez. If you can get Ramirez hitting earlier than August, then the Indians lineup seems a lot more formidable than when Ramirez slumped through spring and early summer. Two batting title contenders in any lineup would seem to be a recipe for a championship. However, these are big IF’s. Is that a gamble you would make if you were desperately trying to re-sign your star player?

It’s not to say that the lack of off-season moves is the wrong choice. The concern is what is Lindor’s perception of the Indians’ willingness to win based on those moves? Maybe he believes heavily in the young talent, or maybe he wishes they were more aggressive like the Twins and White Sox.

So what will Lindor do? Will he even have a chance to decide on an Indians offer? He is legitimately taking his time to evaluate the world during free agency. If you’re the Indians do you make a legitimate offer by proving to Lindor that you are a championship contender during these next two seasons?

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It’s a lot of questions, that people get paid a lot of money to answer. All I can say is that the team may contend in spite of the lack of moves, but if I was Lindor I can’t say that I would be eager to absorb a significantly larger portion of team spending when they can’t give him more help while he’s at an affordable rate.