The Indians find themselves in a difficult situation within the multi-layered conundrum of what to do with Francisco Lindor, their flagship asset.
On one side is the notion of giving themselves every possible chance to try to win now, along with the fact that Lindor is a fan favorite and one of the faces of the league. In that regard, how could the Indians trade him?
On the other side is the notion of trying to contend now but also for the next several years, with the organizational health through 2022 or 2023 and beyond in focus (in addition to the fact that Lindor can walk to free agency after next season). In that light, and with an eye on their long-term goals, how could the Indians afford not to trade him?
It is, in many resects, the most crucial decision the front office has to make within the context of not only this contention window, but also the next one that lies far down the road.
Barring an extension that would require both parties to cover a substantial amount of ground, the Indians can either deal Lindor for a high-value package or keep him for two more seasons and receive draft-pick compensation. The Indians remain in a position of high leverage, though there are risks that come with waiting to pull the trigger while Lindor's value is at its highest.
The Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers are in "serious" trade discussions surrounding Lindor, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The Dodgers are one of the few teams with clearly enough ammo and enough urgency to win to potentially meet the Indians' high asking price for Lindor. According to the report, the Indians are targeting a package including middle infielder Gavin Lux and right-handed pitcher Dustin May, the Dodgers' Nos. 1- and 2-ranked prospects, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline.
Lux (No. 2) and May (No. 32) would be highly valuable to the Indians as prospects who rank inside the top 40 overall, but ones who are also major league ready and could contribute right away.
Lux, 22, a left-handed hitter, has more power than most middle infielders. He also has some speed and while he can play shortstop if needed, concerns with his arm accuracy could push him to second base. He mashed in the minors last season, hitting .347 with an OPS of 1.028, including 26 home runs, 25 doubles and 10 steals in 458 at-bats. He also had a short stint in the majors, hitting .240 with two home runs, four doubles and nine RBI in 23 games. Lux projects to potentially be a 25-25 player in the majors, and only Tampa Bay's Wander Franco stands in the way of Lux being the top-ranked prospect in baseball.
May, also 22, reached the majors as well last season and impressed, posting a 3.63 ERA and 2.90 FIP to go with 32 strikeouts in 34 2/3 innings pitched (14 games, four starts). May was reportedly involved in trade discussions with the Baltimore Orioles and Manny Machado a few years ago, but the Dodgers wouldn't part with him. May's inclusion in the deal would afford the Indians a great deal of flexibility on the trade market with him, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac and others as starting pitching options. May would join an already loaded rotation, and the Indians could deal one of those arms -- most likely Kluber from that group -- to address other areas of the roster. A report from The Athletic cited interest from the Los Angeles Angels in Kluber, who is due $17.5 million in 2020 and has a club option for 2021.
The Indians dealt Trevor Bauer from a position of surplus and added, namely, Franmil Reyes and Logan Allen (another option in the rotation down the line) as long-term additions, along with the rental of Yasiel Puig. They could go to that well again, and adding May would only increase that possibility.
Another aspect of any Lindor-Dodgers deal surrounds the possibility of including Corey Seager. Seager, 25, is a former MVP finalist who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018. He returned last year and hit .272 with an .817 OPS and was worth 3.3 fWAR. Like Lindor, he's under club control for two more seasons. But unlike the Indians' star shortstop, Seager is projected to make $7.1 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors, roughly $9.6 million less than Lindor. Seager and Lux would effectively solve the question marks in the Indians' infield.
Adding Seager on top of two of the top 32 prospects in the game certainly complicates any deal and what the Indians might need to send to Los Angeles. And, even if the Dodgers acquired Lindor, they could make things work with Seager within their infield, lessening the need to move him. Outfielder Alex Verdugo would also make sense in a deal.
Regardless, the Indians have a lot of chess pieces on their board. And this is their biggest move.
(c)2019 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.