For the moment, the Yankees are preoccupied with Gerrit Cole. Up or down, we’ll know soon. But the Cleveland Indians need to be on the radar immediately…
The Yankees and Brian Cashman – take note. The Cleveland Indians are living on borrowed time. As a borderline small-market MLB franchise with limited financial resources, the team has grown too big for its britches.
The Indians cannot sustain what it’s going to cost to keep Francisco Lindor. At only 25, Lindor is entering his second of three arbitration years before he becomes a free agent in 2022.
The Indians paid Lindor almost $11 million in 2019, and a raise over the $15 million mark for 2020 is virtually a done deal. By the time Lindor reaches free agency, he’s a sure bet to be earning $20+ million per season.
After that, and assuming his health stays intact, Lindor enters the market at age 29, and in-line for one of those “cashing in” contracts.
The Indians will be priced out of the market then, and there’s a good chance that if they behave the way they should, they’re priced out even now.
Moreover, the Indians operate in the AL Central division where the Minnesota Twins figure to dominate at least for the next three seasons. The White Sox are coming, and they figure to be a thorn in the side of everyone they play in 2020.
Yankees – Open that door
This should open a door for the Yankees once this Gerrit Cole thing is resolved. With Cole in hand, the Yankees can limit talks to Lindor. But if Cole goes elsewhere, the Yankees need to twist the Indians’ arms to include Shane Bieber in the deal.
Typically, Bieber, at age 24 and controllable until 2025, is the type of player a team wants to hold onto, making him a tough sell for any team mentioning his name in trade discussions.
But Cleveland isn’t the Marlins or the Tampa Bay Rays. Fans attend their games (1.7 million in 2019), and they will continue to do so, if only at a moderate pace (21st out of 30 teams in 2019).
So what if the Yankees offered a package of Miguel Andujar, Clint Frazier, Deivi Garcia, and Mike Ford for Lindor and Bieber?
Bieber’s a stretch, I know. He’s already better than Luis Severino and Domingo German, and Brian Cashman will need to be at his best to make the deal.
Cashman has said he’s “pursuing other dialogs” with teams beyond his dogged fixation on Gerrit Cole. He’s mum beyond that.
But logic says there’s an open door in Cleveland, and the only question is which team will march through it first.
Already, today, there are reports the Mets are interested and supposedly involved in talks with the Indians about a trade for Lindor and Corey Kluber.
Okay, these are the Mets. But in the same report, the Philadelphia Phillies are among the teams mentioned as contenders. And as we know (Zack Wheeler), they don’t mess around.
Beat the rush to the Indians’ door
For the Yankees, it’s been a strange offseason. There is nothing in their coiffures to make a note of as yet. But the mood remains positive that this time – the Yankees mean business.
If it takes paying a luxury tax, so be it. But you get the feeling the Yankees have grown weary of being so close and yet so far away.
The Yankees have a relatively young team, so they’re not like the Washington Nationals (the oldest MLB team) seeing their window closing.
But at the same time, 2009 is nothing more than a memory, and their youngest fans weren’t even born then.
The Yankees are pulling out all the stops to land Gerrit Cole. But it doesn’t end there, and hopefully, Brian Cashman is looking everywhere – and especially the Cleveland Indians as a possible partner in a trade that can satisfy both teams.