The Cleveland Indians, severely strapped for money, are informing teams that they intend to trade All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor by opening day, according to two rival executives.
The executives spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of trade talks.
Cleveland shopped Lindor last winter, and were in serious negotiations with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that involved shortstop Corey Seager, but decided to hang onto him when the Dodgers declined to increase their offer.
Now, Cleveland may have no choice with Lindor expected to earn about $20 million in salary arbitration for the 2021 season, and will be eligible for free agency after the season.
The New York Mets would likely be a strong suitor for Lindor with billionaire Steve Cohen becoming the Mets’ new owner. Lindor not only is one of the top shortstops in the game, but one of baseball's most charismatic players and would be a star attraction in New York.
The Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees also would likely get involved in trade talks.
Teams, of course, could also wait until the winter of 2021 when an amazing class of shortstops will hit the free agent market. Besides Lindor, Seager, Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros, Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story are all eligible for free agency.
Francisco Lindor has been an All-Star four times in six MLB seasons. (Photo: David Richard, USA TODAY Sports)
Certainly the team would prefer to keep Lindor but ownership is demanding the payroll be cut. They already declined the $10 million option on three-time All-Star closer Brad Hand after the season.
Lindor, who would have earned $17.5 million if there had been a 162-game season last year, rejected a $100 million contract extension after the 2017 season. He since has not had formal contract negotiations.
When he was asked after the season whether Cleveland could possibly afford him, Lindor said, “Of course, it’s a billion-dollar team.’’
Yet, Cleveland traditionally has one of the sport’s lowest payrolls, shrinking from $134 million in 2018 to $120 million in 2019 and $96 million if there had been a full season last year.
Cleveland insists it has no choice but to trade Lindor before he’s scheduled to receive his first check on opening day.
The only question is where.
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