If Twitter activity is any indication, Francisco Lindor is sitting around with a bunch of media members today answer questions today. And if his answers are any indication... you might want to enjoy the next three years of him in Cleveland.
I don’t want anything taken out of context or misconstrued, so here is Lindor’s full comment regarding a potential long-term extension with the Tribe via The Athletic’s Zack Meisel:
That’s not where we are right now. I was focused on arbitration. That’s not where I am. When it comes to long-term deals, I love the city of Cleveland. I love everything about Cleveland. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. At the end of the day, I’m playing the game to win. This is a good place where I can win, so we’ll see. If the Indians come up with the right numbers and at some point it happens — which, I’m not even thinking about it — we’ll see.
I’m not going to read into the fact that he said he loves the city of Cleveland and everything about Cleveland but didn’t mention that he loves playing for the Indians by name. That would be irresponsible. Instead, let’s focus on what he did say.
It’s hard to imagine a more picture perfect response to extension talks. He put 100 percent of the onus on the Indians to come through for fans and bring Lindor back in the nicest, most Francisco Lindor way possible. He’s made it clear that he loves Cleveland (he could be just saying that, of course) and has came out and said he’s waiting for the right number from the Indians. He’s just going to do what he can and play baseball and keep being an MVP caliber player.
Lindor, to be frank, has the Indians over a barrel, and it’s hard to blame him for getting everything he can out of them. When they tried to sign him to a seven-year, $100 million deal in 2017, that was likely their last shot to get any kind of young player discount. At the time, Frankie was only their starting shortstop in the World Series and amassed 9.4 WAR in 257 games. Now he’s regarded as the best shortstop in baseball, and right in the conversation for the best player in all of baseball.
In the last three seasons, only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, and Jose Ramirez have more total FanGraphs WAR than Lindor’s 18.8, and the next closest shortstop is Manny Machado with 15.1. Even the cold-hearted, pessimistic Steamer projects have him at 6.5 WAR next season, third in the league behind Trout and Betts.
To further muck up the whole process, Lindor exits his third year of arbitration and becomes a free agent following the 2021 season — the same year the current CBA expires. The same CBA that is causing big-name free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado headaches that could potentially be fixed after that season rolls around. Lindor taking an extension now is negotiating under the current CBA that is absolutely screwing players out of big paydays.
In essence, both Lindor and the Indians are playing chicken with each other as well as that 2021 deadline. Do the Indians do whatever they can to lock up Lindor now before a more player-friendly CBA is in place? Or do they wait it out and hope that things point in the other direction and Lindor blinks in the face of a more oppressive system?
Mild calf strain or not, there’s no coming back from that hometown discount the Indians might have had in 2017. We have no way of knowing if that $100 million offer was real, and if it was, how much the Indians were off from signing Lindor. If it turns out the difference might have been only a few million, the Indians are going to look real silly in 2022.