What Does the Francisco Lindor Trade Mean for the Twins?
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News broke Thursday that the New York Mets would be acquiring Lindor, the electric 27-year-old whose best baseball is seemingly ahead of him. This move was inevitable. Cleveland shopped Lindor to the Dodgers last offseason but couldn’t strike a deal, spurring the 2020 World Series Champions to acquire Mookie Betts from the Red Sox.
This time around, Cleveland wouldn’t be denied. There was no chance they were going to pay Lindor an estimated $19.5 million in his final year of arbitration after a year with lost revenues. It was equally implausible for the pocket-clenching Indians to extend the face of their franchise for what he believes he’s worth.
Twins fans can first breath a sigh of relief. Since his debut in 2015, no player has more hits against Minnesota than Lindor (112). He’s hit 17 homers off the Twins, tied for second-most with Josh Donaldson. He ranks second in runs created (64.6) to only teammate José Ramírez (65.8).
In the most polite way possible, see the door, Mr. Lindor.
COOKIE CLEARS OUT
Lost in the galore of Lindor is the other player heading to Queens. Carlos Carrasco, who posted a strong 3.59 FIP and 29% strikeout rate in 2020, will join Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and eventually Noah Syndergaard atop the Mets’ rotation.
Cleveland cut their 2021 payroll to a dwindled $40 million. Ramírez, the A.L.’s 2020 MVP runner-up, is their highest paid player at $9.4 million.
Cleveland has flipped Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and now Lindor and Carrasco within 18 months.
The Mets sent four players with a combined 20 years of team control in return. Perhaps the most exciting of the bunch, shortstop Andrés Giménez projects as a glove-first starter, if not an offensive liability.
Amed Rosario, once a top prospect, will look to discover in Cleveland what made him so desirable as a youngster. 20-year-old righty Josh Wolf will enter Cleveland’s mad pitching lab that seems to create aces on call. The youngest player in the deal, 19-year-old Isaiah Greene projects as a centerfielder with some upside at the plate.
Simply, Cleveland received two major-league ready middle-infielders in Giménez and Rosario and two younger prospects in Wolf and Greene. MLB Trade Simulator says it was an equally valuable deal.
The idea that Lindor could join the Twins was always far-fetched. Cleveland would have to be blown away by an offer to surrender such talent to their divisional foe.
There are other shortstops, though, who could shift Jorge Polanco to a utility role in 2021 before Royce Lewis hopefully fills the position permanently in 2022.
Among free agents: Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons and Didi Gregorius. For trade targets...
Cubs star Javier Báez. The brother-in-law of José Berríos also has only one year left before free agency. Báez is projected to make just under $11 million, a very reasonable price for his upside.
The Puerto Rican slugger is also one of the best defenders in the game. Báez has saved more runs (33) than any shortstop in baseball over the last two seasons.
Among 30 shortstops who’ve spent at least 200 games at the position since 2016, Báez ranks 3rd in slugging (.490) and home runs (108) and 6th in bWAR (18.0).
Even with a poor 2020 season, Báez has an extremely favorable outlook. He isn’t as good as Lindor but also costs nearly $10 million less. His price in a trade would likely require one of the Twins’ top five prospects or a slew in the 6-15 range.
Trevor Story's fate is easier to predict. The Rockies aren’t competing and would probably love to save $18.5 million for 2021. Story is a premium athlete with a huge bat. He’s slugged a monstrous .585 in five years with Colorado while saving 45 runs defensively, good for third among shortstops during that span.
MLB Trade Simulator is much more realistic on his value in a trade than they are on Báez’s. One year of Story is valued as almost the same as six-plus years of Alex Kirilloff or four-plus of Max Kepler.
In a quantity-over-quality deal, the Rockies or Cubs may seek a package with 18-year-old OF Misael Urbina, who hit .279/.382/.443 in the Dominican Summer League in 2019. Joining Urbina could be Keoni Cavaco, the toolsy shortstop picked 13th overall in the 2019 draft. Maybe RHP Blayne Enlow is involved, too.
The Twins' seventh, 10th, and 20th best prospects, plus perhaps one more piece could be enough to pry one of these expiring stars loose. This is simply framework speculation.
The Twins won seven of 10 games against Cleveland in 2020. Lindor hit .317/.341/.488 while scoring or driving in eight of the 26 runs scored (31%). Cleveland won't replace Lindor's production but it's not all doom and gloom.
Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and their never-ending growth of starters will keep them relevant. Franmil Reyes has undeniable power and Ramírez is a Twins-killing star. The outfield remains a mess, accumulating negative-1 fWAR in 2020, the second lowest in the A.L. The rotation is strong but won't make up for their massive flaws in lineup and roster depth.
Cleveland has officially waved the white flag on their divisional dominance.
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