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Francisco Lindor Trade: Assessing the Damage in Cleveland

The long-rumored Francisco Lindor trade has finally happened, as the New York Mets acquired the four-time All-Star shortstop and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians on January 7th, 2021. I will be focusing on the trade package Cleveland got in return and why they decided to move on from Lindor and Carrasco.

Francisco Lindor Trade: Why the Trade Happened

The Francisco Lindor trade is similar to the Mookie Betts trade for multiple reasons. Starting with the fact that both individuals are elite position players that were moved with one year of control left, this severely limited what the Indians and Red Sox could get in return. Another facet that was present in both situations is that the front offices of both teams were forced to trade the faces of their respective franchises because of demands by ownership to cut costs.

Contrary to the belief of many, ownership and the front office are two separate entities. Some owners/ownership groups don"t involve themselves in baseball operations at all and other owners will meddle in the everyday operations of front offices at various degrees. The interference spectrum has a very wide range. On one end, you have owners like Angels owner Arte Moreno, who canceled the deal that would have sent Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling to an Angels roster filled with holes because of his impatience. Then there are owners like Paul Dolan, who gives the organization"s president a budget number and vanishes into thin air.

Including Carlos “Cookie" Carrasco in the Francisco Lindor trade was to further free up more money, as Carrasco is going to make $12 million during the 2021 season. Including Carrasco in the trade was gut-wrenching, as he took two team-friendly contracts to stay in a Cleveland uniform, and he has a great relationship with the city of Cleveland. Carlos Carrasco frequently gives back to the people of Cleveland via food drives, hosting events, and donating to numerous charities throughout Northeast Ohio.

Getting rid of the two highest-paid players on the 40-man roster is just explicit proof that the Francisco Lindor trade was a salary dump. Team president Chris Antonetti stated in a call with the press that the team would reinvest the money into the roster, but I will be skeptical until this hypothetical reinvestment comes to fruition. The true reason why Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco will not be in a Cleveland uniform for the rest of their careers is simply because of Paul Dolan"s reluctance to consistently invest capital into the roster.

What They Got in Return

The Cleveland Indians received 21-year-old shortstop Andres Gimenez, 25-year-old shortstop Amed Rosario, and two low-level prospects from the New York Mets. You may be thinking that this return for Lindor and Carrasco is a bit light, but I will provide some context that will hopefully lead you to think this was probably the best return the Indians were going to get.

The Cleveland Indians front office"s recent trades of prominent players have brought back packages that are a mixture of short term and long term additions. A statement that the front office group has used to explain their moves since they began trading notable players: “balancing present and future assets on the roster to remain competitive without a full-blown rebuild."

Former Indians Player Short Term Addition Long Term Addition W/ Far Future Impact Long Term Addition W/ Near Future Impact
Trevor Bauer Yasiel Puig Logan Allen, Victor Nova, Scott Moss Franmil Reyes
Corey Kluber Delino DeShields Jr. Emmanuel Clase
Mike Clevinger Austin Hedges Owen Miller, Gabriel Arias, Joey Cantillo Josh Naylor, Cal Quantrill
Francisco Lindor Amed Rosario Josh Wolf, Isaiah Greene Andres Gimenez

Andres Gimenez is the centerpiece of the trade package going to Cleveland, and he will move into the empty slot at shortstop left by Lindor immediately. Gimenez is the exact type of player the Cleveland Indians organization loves to draft or sign on the international amateur market. He is a young, controllable, and athletic individual who will stay at shortstop long term. Gimenez has performed versus older competition throughout his Minor League career and in his 49 games playing for the Mets during the 2020 season at the age of 21 years old.

The Indians" front office places an extremely high value on young baseball players that perform well versus opponents who are older and more physically developed, as they believe it is a sign of future success. Gimenez has excellent range, great hands, and more than enough arm strength to handle the most valuable defensive position in the sport outside of catching.

Gimenez has an above-average hit tool from the left side of the plate, holding his own against older competition while being moved through the farm system by the Mets organization. He does not have much present raw power and does not project to make a marked increase as he matures physically. The Indians are adept at improving the game power of contact-oriented hitters at the MLB level by encouraging swing/approach adjustments. Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, and Francisco Lindor are the three most prominent examples that saw a huge increase in insolated Power(ISO) during their time as above-average full-time MLB players during the 2010s.

Amed Rosario is a former top ten MLB prospect that did not meet expectations during his three years as the starting shortstop for the Mets. Despite the poor statistical performance, Rosario has interesting underlying traits and somewhat recent improvements in his production. Rosario is a top tier athlete, placing in the 90th percentile or better for the sprint speed category of Baseball Savant every season he"s played in. During the 2019 season, Rosario improved at making effective contact, especially in the second half of the season. Rosario was abysmal during the 2020 season, but considering it was a small sample size without a ramp-up period, it is not as damning as you would think.

Rosario was the Mets full-time shortstop, and he was a very lousy defender at the position. There were rumors about the Mets contemplating using him in a super-utility role, and he has the athleticism and throwing arm to play all over the diamond. The Indians value defensive versatility, so the possibility is still tangible. Do not be surprised if Amed Rosario is named the starting shortstop out of Spring Training and Andres Gimenez is sent to the Triple-A team in Columbus, Ohio. This would be a shrewd move by the organization to manipulate Gimenez"s service time, and also get him acclimated to any swing or approach changes the Indians player development group may want to implement.

There are reasons to remain optimistic that Amed Rosario can still provide value to the Indians from 2021 forward. The Indians front office loves to buy low on former top prospects that have fallen off a cliff in their first stint at the MLB level because the risk that a revitalization project runs is worth the reward when compared to the low cost of acquisition. The Indians front office has an immense amount of confidence in its player development group, based on its track record and acquisition patterns. Like-minded organizations such as the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers operate similarly and are known for turning one team"s trash into core pieces of World Series contenders.

The two low-level prospects the Indians received in the deal were twenty-year-old right-handed starting pitcher Josh Wolf and nineteen-year-old centerfielder Isaiah Greene. Both were somewhere in the seven to ten range in a Mets system that severely lacks talent, and because of the likelihood that they will start the 2021 MiLB season in the lower minors. Wolf was taken in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft, and Greene was taken in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft.

I consider them both to be lottery tickets, and because of only one year of statistical performance in the minor leagues combined between the two, an in-depth analysis of these two is unnecessary at the moment. They both are top 30 prospects in the Cleveland Indians farm system, but somewhere in the 20-30 range.

This trade was the best the Indians were going to do when taking all the external factors into account. Getting a long-term asset with the potential to contribute to the Major League roster right away was imperative, and what Andres Gimenez brings to the table makes him more than capable of providing immediate value. Amed Rosario is an extremely interesting and intriguing lottery ticket, and while it seems like he"s been around forever he is still only 25 years old.

The sheer amount of incompetency and chaos engrained throughout the Mets organization during the latter half of the 2010s and what wound up being the Wilpons" last hurrah could partially explain Rosario"s disappointing career so far. The Indians front office has earned every benefit of the doubt, so I will be watching Rosario closely throughout the 2021 season.

Trading two beloved members of the 2010s Indians teams left a bitter taste in my mouth, especially under the circumstances where a multi-billionaire chose short term profits over compensating one of the faces of professional baseball at a reasonable yearly rate. Attaching the longest-tenured player on the team that had built a strong bond with the city of Cleveland and its residents after he recently defeated cancer and bounced back to contributing for the team just makes it that much worse.

Most Cleveland sports fans give the Browns and Cavs a majority of their attention and money when the Indians have easily been the best franchise of the three since the 1990s. While the Indians have had elite TV ratings, people simply do not go to games. I also think there is a bias against Paul Dolan because of his relative cheapness, even though he has kept one of the greatest front office trees in the history of baseball intact by giving Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff the reigns, and getting the hell out of the way.

The PR damage caused by this trade has been done, and it will be remembered amongst the many other departures of iconic players to wear the Indians uniform during the 21st century. This trade is not the signal of a full-blown rebuild, as the Indians has a forty man roster filled with intriguing names, and a pipeline of endless quality starting pitchers. Along with having one of the best front offices in professional sports, I fully expect the Cleveland Indians to remain playoff contenders throughout the 2020s.

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