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Lindor in the Cards?

by Brad Kehl

The offseason is probably one of my most favorite times of the year. Commonly referred to as “Hot Stove Season”, rumors start to fly. While it has been a somewhat cold start to the offseason chatter, one name that has been mentioned quite a bit has been Indians All Star shortstop, Francisco Lindor. The Indians have reportedly said that they will be trading Lindor prior to the start of the season. Just last week, a report came out that the Cardinals were one of 7 teams that are interested in acquiring Lindor.

It makes sense for the Indians to trade Lindor. They’ve been known to trade their stars prior to them hitting free agency. In recent years, they have traded Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and Mike Clevinger. Francisco Lindor is likely next on that list, who is entering the final year of arbitration before hitting free agency. Cleveland is a mid-market team that would be unlikely to be able to give what Lindor is asking for. While, the Indians may not get as much in return as they would have if they traded him last offseason, they should be able to get a good return, maybe similar to what the Red Sox received from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts deal. 

Any trade for Lindor is complicated in that he is likely to get roughly $20 million dollars in arbitration, plus you are trading away prospects or key players for possibly a single season of Lindor’s services. When it came out that the Cardinals were one of the teams mentioned, I hopped on one of my favorite Facebook Groups: Cardinals Nation 24/7. There were mixed feelings on whether the Cardinals should trade for him, ranging from “in a heartbeat” to “not a chance.”

One of the common reasons people had said no, was because of him being in his final season of his contract. Most of those people claimed that it doesn’t make sense and that he would chase the money in the open market. My question to them, is why not go after him? He is arguably, the best shortstop in the game. This wouldn’t be the first time the Cardinals acquired a player like Lindor. Here is a list of players the Cardinals have acquired either the offseason prior or during their final year of their contract, along with what the Cardinals had to trade.

July 1997: Mark McGwire for Eric Ludwick, TJ Mathews & Blake Stein

March 2000: Jim Edmonds for Kent Bottenfield & Adam Kennedy

July 2002: Scott Rolen for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith, & Mike Timlin

July 2009: Matt Holliday for Clayton Mortensen, Shane Peterson, & Brett Wallace

November 2014: Jason Heyward for Tyrell Jenkins and Shelby Miller

December 2018: Paul Goldschmidt for Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver, & Andy Young

All but Heyward wound up staying with the Cardinals by either signing an extension or re-signing in the offseason. So why not Lindor? Cardinals have a history of making trades with the Indians. One website proposed the following trade:

Cardinals get: SS Francisco Lindor

Indians get: CF Harrison Bader, INF/OF Tommy Edman, RHP Johan Oviedo (12th prospect), & RHP Angel Rondon (13th prospect)

If this is what it takes to get Lindor, I absolutely make this trade. However, I don’t think this is exactly what the Indians will be looking for. I do think they will be looking for pitching and someone to replace Lindor at SS. I think the prospect pitchers are about right. However, I don’t think the Indians would view Edman as a replacement to Lindor. They may, however, want Paul deJong. He is under control for 3 more seasons and would be a nice replacement for Lindor. He is obviously no Lindor, but does provide nice pop and is a very good defender. 

Would Lindor consider staying with the Cardinals? Maybe the better question is could the Cardinals afford Lindor long term? I believe they could offer him top money. They were going to sign David Price until the Red Sox came in last minute and offered $30-$50 million more. The Cardinals reportedly offered Heyward more money than the Cubs. Many forget that the Cardinals had agreed to take on roughly $300 million of Giancarlo Stanton’s contract before he vetoed the trade. While it’s true, the Cardinals have not signed the star free agent in recent years, they have had better luck trading for that star first, then keeping him around long term.

I do think the Cardinals are interested in acquiring a big bat, including Lindor. I expect them to be fully involved in the discussions. Will they trade for him? Who knows, but that’s what makes Hot Stove Season so much fun!

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