Extending Lindor: The Indians' path to keeping Frankie in Cleveland

Francisco Lindor is under team control through the 2021 season

James Rapien
October 15, 2019 - 5:26 pm
Aug 13, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor (12) reacts after hitting an RBI double in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, OH – Francisco Lindor is one of the top baseball players on the planet. It’s impossible to discuss the Indians without thinking about his future in Cleveland.  

He’s as cool off the field as he is on it. ‘Frankie’ is the face of Cleveland baseball. He finished with at least 32 home runs and 40 doubles in each of the past three seasons. He’s one of the best defensive shortstops in the game and has emerged as a leader in the clubhouse.

Players like Franmil Reyes, Yasiel Puig, Oscar Mercado and others all praised Lindor for helping the team reach 93 wins last season despite dealing with roster turnover, trades and injuries to some of their best players.

Everyone knows about Lindor’s greatness. His future in Cleveland was on the minds of Tribe fans in 2019. That feeling isn’t going away. Will the Indians decide to trade their superstar since he's only under team control for two more seasons? Will they elect to keep him on the roster and try to win a World Series while he’s still in town?

No one expects the Indians to sign Lindor to an extension. The four-time All-Star is obviously worth keeping and the front office would love to get a deal done, but it’s hard to envision ownership signing off on the type of money that it would take to keep him.

Would Paul Dolan really consider signing Lindor to a 10-year, $400 million contract extension? Probably not – and he shouldn’t. Have any of these long-term mega deals worked out?

Major League Baseball is the only sport that guarantees its’ top athletes $30+ million per season for a decade or more. The Indians shouldn’t offer that type of contract. There are too many examples of it failing. Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Joe Mauer, Miguel Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez are just a few of the huge contracts that didn’t work out for their respective teams. Rodriguez won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009, but it didn’t work out in Texas and his contract held New York back toward the latter part of his career.

There’s no way the Indians should offer Lindor that type of deal, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make him a fair, reasonable offer. It's up to the Indians to find a middle ground.

Lindor is worth $35+ million per season. He’s one of the best shortstops in baseball. He can hit anywhere in the lineup and has a nice mix of power and smarts at the plate.

He has two more years of arbitration before free agency. Instead of making around $16 million in 2020 and $20 million in 2021, the Indians should offer a deal that would double his earnings over the next two seasons.

A 5-year, $185 million contract extension would make sense for both sides.

At $37 million per year, Lindor would be the highest paid infielder in the game. Only Mike Trout ($37.1 million) would make more in 2020. Instead of waiting for his big payday, Lindor would get top dollar for his services.

This would obviously be the biggest contract in Indians’ history. It would also protect the franchise from the long-term hell that some of these other deals have brought to their organizations.  

A 5-year contract would keep Lindor in Cleveland through the 2024 season. He’ll turn 31-years-old that offseason (Nov 14), which leaves the door open for a player of his stature to sign another big money deal before his career is over.

Players like Nolan Arenado and Giancarlo Stanton have signed contracts with player options midway through their contract. The Indians would ask Lindor to take it a step farther, but it gives him a chance to cash in for a second time.

This would be a risk for him, but we’ve seen superstar athletes change the way they sign contracts with long-term gain in mind. NBA players like LeBron James signed shorter deals so they could continue to cash in and make more money each season.

It’s hard to ask the Indians to pay Lindor $350-$400 million over the next decade. He’s a great player, but the blueprint doesn’t fit the organization. Not many organizations are willing to commit to one player for that amount of time.

It might be a long shot, especially since Lindor has reportedly turned down an extension in the past, but this contract would ensure his paycheck matches his skill for the next five seasons.

It’s easy to understand why fans want to keep Lindor – he’s a great player. That doesn’t mean the Indians are going to hand him a blank check. They also shouldn’t be in a rush to trade him.

There could be a middle ground between paying Lindor and not putting the long-term future of the organization in jeopardy.

If Lindor turns down a 5-year, $185 million extension, then it’s on him. He can make his arbitration money over the next two seasons and sign a megadeal elsewhere. The Indians would likely trade him before he was eligible for free agency. 

The collective bargaining agreement between the Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association expires after the 2021 season. That could be another factor in a potential extension. Would Lindor want security or will the Players’ Association tell him to wait to sign until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place?

Regardless of labor talks, the Indians have to exhaust every option before they trade a player like Lindor. A 10-year deal is unrealistic, but a shorter contract with big money should be appeal to both sides.

Maybe it’s not enough. Maybe Lindor envisions himself in Chicago playing at Wrigley Field or in Boston for 81 home games at Fenway Park. Before the Indians come to that conclusion, they need to do everything in their power to keep him in Cleveland.

A 5-year, $185 million offer might do that, which is exactly why they should offer him a contract of that magnitude this offseason.