Cleveland Indians fans have come to dread conversations about Francisco Lindor. The star shortstop is under team control through 2021, but it is clear the team is not going to give him an offer that he considers to reflect the full extent of his worth. The front office may end up viewing this impasse as an opportunity to rebuild the team with several top prospects, and if they're going to go down that road, they have to decided just what Lindor is worth to them.
The trade rumors were hot all offseason, but it was hard to separate rumors from workable frameworks for a deal. One thing that became clear in time, however, is that the Indians had a high asking price for the shortstop.
Oh, what could have been.
The Lindor trade rumors involving the Dodgers gave us a starting point. The Indians were asking for two top prospects and likely would have wanted an MLB-ready player as well. Alex Verdugo, who was sent to Boston in the Mookie Betts trade, is an example of a player under team control for several years who could be prized in this kind of trade.
Generally speaking, that Betts deal is a great comparison for Lindor; the key difference is that Lindor comes with an additional year of team control. Lindor has a 27.6 WAR over five seasons, while Betts is at 41.8 in six. Betts additionally won an MVP in 2018 and has an edge in terms of overall star power, but that extra year of control with Lindor evens the playing field in terms of a trade haul.
The Red Sox received two prospects and a big league-ready outfielder in the Betts trade. Jeter Downs in now the No. 1-ranked prospect in Boston, and Connor Wong is ranked No. 16. The outfielder is Verdugo, who is under team control through 2024.
Cleveland is going to ask for a minimum of two top prospects in any deal. The package the Red Sox received from the Dodgers gives an example teams can point to when making the Indians the offer. Rival teams end up having the leverage here, however, because Lindor's value goes down with each passing day.