Baseball offseasons are supposed to be intriguing bouts with improving your favorite team rather than endless consternation about whether your preferred club of choice will auction off that beloved superstar. For Indians fans, though, it looks as if the consternation will continue into next week.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic dropped an ounce of Francisco Lindor news late Thursday night leading to a frenzy of speculation. According to Rosenthal, the Indians have asked teams to make their final bids for the services of Lindor this weekend. It appears the endless and rampant trade speculation surrounding the star shortstop might finally have an end in sight.
The proclaimed deadline has ruffled the feathers off at least one rival executive involved in the sweepstakes.
“I do think (the Indians) are trying to bring things to a rapid conclusion. I’m not sure why they want to impose an artificial deadline when they may get a better deal in January once teams have a clearer picture of what options they have.”
Well, anonymous executive, that deadline is to allow the Indians to carry out the remainder of their offseason business. Until the Lindor dust gets settled, whether traded or not, the Indians are not able to construct their 2020 roster. There are too many unanswerable questions.
For argument’s sake, let’s say the Dodgers cave and trade you Gavin Lux and Corey Seager or Joc Pederson. These players would all require roster spots and would alter the allocation of remaining resources. If the same trade were to occur next month, there would be considerably fewer options available to patch the remainder of the holes.
The other side of the coin is the alleged drawback mentioned by the rival executive. The executive mentioned that opposing teams would have a “much clearer picture of what they have” in January, which might make some sense if Lindor was a mediocre outfielder being displaced by a pending free agent signing. Francisco Lindor is a superstar who helps even the most complete teams… His price isn’t going up or down based on a handful of mediocre free agent deals. Waiting to deal him would just leave the Indians mired in this fog of uncertainty with little to no tangible benefit gleaned in a potential return.
The quote is more founded in a rival executive being displeased by their feet getting put to the fire. It’s akin to the used car salesman proclaiming that another customer is on the way in to purchase that exact 2001 Chevy Blazer and oh boy, his offer is serious. You know it’s improbable that this car has sat on the lot for months and now the demand has skyrocketed. You know this guy with tweed elbow patches on his blazer isn’t above lying to push you to a decision. You know there might be another opportunity to purchase this car tomorrow and even if not, similar cars exist. But now you just want that car. The anonymous front office executive feeding Rosenthal his information wants that car and is perturbed about being pushed to a final decision point.
Mere hours before Rosenthal broke the news that the Indians were putting opposing executives’ feet to the fire, news broke that the Cincinnati Reds were making a push for Lindor’s services. The timing is miraculous! Imagine how convenient it is for the Indians that one of the only other clubs with an intriguing piece at the major league level (Nick Senzel) would insert themselves into the bidding right before the Indians imposed a deadline on Lindor offers, despite that club having no realistic chance of retaining Lindor’s services after his contract expires.
Do you believe in coincidences? In this case, it seems somewhat likely that the Indians leaked the Reds interest to leverage the Dodgers, who have been reportedly hesitant to include top prospect Gavin Lux.
These trade discussions are all about leverage and the Indians are employing everything within their power to extract the most value out of trading their franchise shortstop. Most importantly, the Indians hold a significant leverage advantage because they don’t have to trade Lindor. If the deadline submissions this weekend fail to meet their internal valuation, they can keep him for their 2020 push. It’s unlikely another month or two of shadow games and leaking reports would lead to bigger offers, anyway.