Cleveland Indians: What happens next following Francisco Lindor trade?

What’s next for the Cleveland Indians after Lindor trade?

The Cleveland Indians checked off the first box of their offseason do list by trading Francisco Lindor, but what else is in store for the Tribe? Moving Carlos Carrasco in the deal as well, the Indians were able to cut around $44 million from their payroll. However, what they do with that money and how they navigate the rest of the offseason and the 2021 season is still well up for discussion.

While Lindor was the big move of the offseason, it brings the Cleveland Indians to a crossroads for what to do next. They can either try to put together a competitive roster for the 2021 season or they can trade away more assets and go into a complete rebuild mode.

The one positive for the Tribe will be their pitching staff. Even without Carrasco, the unit still has four strong pieces at least and all are under the age of 25. While this is a huge positive, it will also be a big factor in what the Indians decide to do moving forward. If they opt to rebuild, they could waste valuable time with this young pitching staff.

For starters, let’s take a look at what a rebuild means. A rebuild in baseball is totally different than any sport. With the minor leagues, every team is always rebuilding in a way, but the Cleveland Indians could make the choice to completely uproot their team. If saving money is the reason, then the next steps are rather clear.

If Cleveland wants to save money, then Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez are the next players to go. Ramirez is set to make $9.4 million in 2021 with a club option for 2022 worth $12 million and another option in 2022 worth $14 million. As for Perez, he will make $5.5 million in 2021 with a club option for $7 million in 2022.

While both have value to the team, the front office now has to evaluate if Ramirez’s contributions are worth up to $35.4 million over the next years and if Perez is worth $12.5 over the next two. If they really are going for a full rebuild, then they both are pieces that could net prospects and save money.

On top of that, trading either could open opportunities for younger prospects to emerge. Nolan Jones is sounding like he could be MLB-ready by the start of the season and could slot in at third base. As for catcher, Austin Hedges and Beau Taylor are still serviceable while Bo Naylor is rising through the minor league ranks.

However, doing that could eliminate whatever hope is left for fans of being competitive, which brings us to the other avenue. The Cleveland Indians could attempt to add cheap players to keep the team afloat until the reinforcements arrive from the minor leagues. The future is still bring for the Tribe, but the issue is that many of the players won’t be ready for another year or two creating a lull between success periods.

With Lindor and Carrasco now out of Cleveland, there are a few gaps that could be filled in the time being, including a starting pitcher, first basemen, middle infielder and at least one outfielder. Now, this isn’t a ploy to try and get the Indians to sign all of them, that’s not logical no matter the team. Instead, the Indians could try and sign one or two of them, creating fewer holes that will be filled by platoons or inexperienced prospects who might be rushed to the majors.

There’s even the potential that we could see a combination of the two avenues. By trading Ramirez or Perez and then signing a short-term replacement, the Indians could very easily save money. The free agent market has had very little action this offseason, so prices might be dropping.

Plus, teams are exactly looking to sign any big contracts. Every team is feeling the impacts of lower revenue in 2020 and that is showing in the free agent market. Instead, a team might be willing to trade for a top talent like Ramirez that comes at a bargain price for his play. The Indians could then turn around and sign a veteran for less than what they would have paid Ramirez.

We expected the Lindor trade, but now we’re into uncharted territory for what to expect. The Cleveland Indians will most likely make more moves this offseason, but will they be positive or negative to the outlook of the team? They could trade away more pieces to save more money or add players to keep the team among the top in the American League and rely on youth and pitching. Regardless, it’s going to be a roller coaster couple months leading up to the season and that’ll just be the beginning.