Just about every angle of the Francisco Lindor trade story has been covered already, and we are still far from the hot stove being even lukewarm. This is our lives now, probably until somewhere around July 31, 2021.
Over at MLB.com, Anthony Castrovince laid out all of the reasons why it makes sense to trade Lindor now. That is why we will hear this story hashed out over and over until Mr. Smile is traded, walks in free agency, or shocks every person who follows the sport by re-signing in Cleveland.
The pragmatic reasons as to why the Indians should move on from Lindor are undeniable, and the team is as vulnerable to those practical reasons as almost any other team in baseball. But any argument made so far has been to justify the means to the desired end, which is not how trades work, especially ones like these.
It is easy to forget in the midst of the media trade machine that we never truly know what is on the table until a deal is reached. While Castrovince and anyone else assessing the situation is correct, the Dodgers make a ton of sense as a trade partner in this case, Castro is also dead-on in saying these trades are complicated.
Just because now is the best time to deal Lindor does not mean there is a time where it makes the most sense. That must not be forgotten. The Dodgers and Andrew Freidman, the president of baseball operations who has shown little willingness to trade the prospects the Indians need, could be bidding against themselves. Nothing about that scenario seems to indicate a deal.
Because of the similarity in valuations between teams in the information era, any deal has to be equitable. Generally gone are the days in which a team gets fleeced, at least before the results trickle in and retrospect rears its head.
Does that trade exist for Lindor? Likely not.
Our friend John Bitzer over at BaseballTradeValues.com already used his tool to look into a Lindor trade, and *spoiler alert* he concluded that same thing.
While John looks into some realistic scenarios for such a deal, he does not mention the Dodgers, who will be thrown around the most because of the compatibility between sides, and the fact that they are not the New York Yankees. Whether that last part matters due to the American League rivalry or the fact that the Yankees have no desirable prospects is up to you.
By BTV’s valuation, Lindor’s adjusted field value currently sits at 95.5, and that is the number we would try to match up with the Dodgers. Assuming Walker Buehler and Cody Bellinger are off the table, no one matches Lindor straight-up. Max Muncy (87.6) comes close because of his three service years remaining, and we will come back to him.
The Dodgers are such a match for the Indians because of the quality of ML-ready prospects they employ. No winter trade of Lindor would be just for LA mega-prospects like Gavin Lux, Dustin May or Keibert Ruiz because of the clear lack of immediate returns that any package of those three would offer. In the unlikely occasion that all three were offered in a Hail Mary attempt from Friedman to win the big one, it still does not jibe with Cleveland’s current interests, though plenty tempting.
At least one of the trio would need to be included to be worth the Indians’ time. For the sake of a Lindor trade, Lux makes the most sense given that he plays up the middle and has seen Major League action. Ruiz reached Triple-A late last season and does not fit a particular area of need, though the value of a high-level catching prospect is immense. May, while plenty valuable, would not be of particular valuable to a team already rife with pitching, and would not make sense as the featured piece.
Already there are issues in matching up each side. Only Lux makes most sense for Cleveland’s contention window, putting them in a position of trying to acquire the top prospect from a team who does not deal prospects.
Because of the unpredictability of what prospects will produce in a given season, especially one with just 82 career plate appearances, the Dodgers would need to pitch in more. Pairing Muncy with Lux would move the needle, and now we’ve drifted into unlikely territory again. Lux provides controllable value later, while Muncy is very much a part of what LA has put together. It is likely too much.
Aside from Muncy, only Alex Verdugo (68.1) and Will Smith (63.6) are position players who come close to matching Lindor’s value. Assuming the Indians would not move on from their Gold Glove shortstop by replacing their Gold Glove catcher, we can scratch Smith.
Without working through a handful of Lindor trades, it looks that some combination of Muncy/Verdugo and Lux make the most sense as a concise trade. There are many more options to make those deals work for both sides, such as adding other prospects on either side, and/or (like Castrovince mentions) adding Corey Kluber to derive value by cost cutting.
Do any of these combos seem likely? Verdugo and Lux for Lindor make sense for both sides, and is feasible, but does it make the most sense? It seems more like the Indians are not that desperate to make the move, and it is something we have concocted to fit the means to the end.
Do not let the thought that the Orioles got little for Manny Machado be used as a legitimate argument against waiting. The Orioles were bad, had been bad, and were desperate, which drove down their price.
Do not let the talk about Francisco Lindor being dealt be a stressor in your life. There are other teams, with other combinations, but the idea that the most sensible suitor presents such a deeply complex scenario is reason to believe it won’t happen.