Prior to COVID disruptions, the Cubs actually were one of the most likely landing spots for Lindor. They do have a star shortstop in Javy Baez, but also Baez is a close friend whom the prospect of playing together may allow for either to shift positions. This isn’t unimaginable, Alex Rodriguez made the shift to third base when he joined Derek Jeter and the Yankees.
However, the Cubs, like the Indians, have also expressed a desire to cut payroll. They, like the Indians, are looking to spend on their star shortstop for a long-term deal. If the Indians can absorb close to the same payroll that Lindor would bring in a trade, then the Cubs may still make the deal if they can cut costs in other transactions.
This is why the Cubs send back Kris Bryant and his $18.6 million price tag in 2021. Get fans back into Wrigley Field, and the Cubs may decide to keep Lindor, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for them to see value in bringing Lindor to Chicago. Would the price of Baez and Lindor be different if they could play together? It’s a risk they may be willing to try for one season.
For the Cleveland Indians you get a big bat in return in Kris Bryant. He could potentially be flipped again at the trade deadline depending on the Indians standings, or a valuable bat to keep their offense competitive. The problem with Bryant, is his offense took a steep drop in 2020, going from a .903 OPS in 2019 down to .644 in 2020. That drop would be why the Indians can ask for more than just a salary swap.
Adding in some pitching in this deal to help the Cubs allows them to sweeten the other player in return which is Nico Hoerner. Hoerner is a former 2018 first round pick, who entering 2020 was the Cubs top prospect. Hoerner has significant trade value, and is the gem of this trade. For the Cubs, they are looking at Hoerner in alternative positions since Baez is set at SS. Later this season, Hoerner got the majority of his starts at second base rather than SS.
Hoerner has already made the majors for Chicago, and while the Cubs may not be willing to part with him, the Indians certainly have the pitching the Cubs would covet to try to pull a long-term building block in any deal from Chicago.
Overall, there are multiple trades that make sense between the Cubs and Indians. The biggest hurdle will be the Cubs front office situation. What is their operating budget for 2021? If this deal took place a year ago, bigger names and more offense would have been included back to the Cleveland Indians.