The Reds are the latest team to engage with the Indians about a potential Francisco Lindor trade, per source. It’s unclear if there’s any traction, but Reds have been aggressive on trade market before (Bauer, Puig) and have attractive trade chips (Senzel, India among them).
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 19, 2019
Keep in mind insider news comes from one of the two teams. The leak is often strategic. It might be Cleveland prodding one of their other trade partners. The Reds might have leaked it to gin up trade talks with the Dodgers for Corey Seager or the Colorado Rockies for Trevor Story. Regardless of which side whispered this report to Mark Feinsand, it seems likely Francisco Lindor is in play, if not for the Reds then another team willing to pay the steep price.
The idea of acquiring Lindor is consistent with the notion the Reds are efforting a big, surprising trade for offense this season. The shortstop position makes the most sense. I’ve written about the possibility for months, most recently on Monday (What next for the Reds?).
Prior to this report, the Reds front office had signaled a different approach to player acquisition than they took last year. For the 2019 team, the Reds made trades with the Yankees for Sonny Gray, with the Nationals for Tanner Roark, a blockbuster with the Dodgers for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer, and an in-season trade with Cleveland for Trevor Bauer.
In contrast, this year the front office has said they’ll be looking to the free agent market more. They’ve already made deals with infielder Mike Moustakas for $64 million and Wade Miley for $15 million. Our estimate indicates they have in the range of $18-23 million left to spend on new players.
If the Reds are indeed seriously interested in Lindor, there are a few approaches they could take to a trade. Let’s start be looking at what Lindor would bring to the Reds.
Francisco Lindor Is Even Better than You Think
Francisco Lindor turned 26 in September. Cleveland drafted him out of high school in Florida at the age of 17, with the #8 pick of the 2011 draft. If you were wondering, the Reds had the 27th pick that year (remember when the Reds won 91 games and the NL Central?). They chose Robert Stephenson. Two years earlier they had the #8 pick and selected Mike Leake.
Lindor is a whiz-bang shortstop. He hits for average and power. For those of you who like the speed, Lindor steals bases. Let’s put numbers together with those attributes.
From 2016-2018, Lindor was a 6-to-8 WAR player, depending on the season and who’s doing the math. He played in 158+ games each of those years. 2018 was his best, hitting .277/.352/.519 with 38 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Lindor’s overall run production (wRC+) was 130, or 30 percent above league average. He walked 9.4% of the time and struck out 14.4%. (League averages were 8.5% and 22.3% respectively). Lindor won the Silver Slugger award for shortstops.
In 2o19, Lindor’s counting stats were down because he missed the first month of the season with a left ankle sprain and right calf strain. Other than a bit of a slump in September, his numbers over 143 games were in line with previous years, although notably his walk-rate did drop to 7.0%. Lindor’s xwOBA on Contact fell from .407 to .366, although his average Exit Velocity and Hard Hit% were about the same in 2019 as 2018.
Lindor won the Gold Glove for AL shortstops (his second in four seasons) in 2019. Lindor’s display case would be even more stuffed, but he plays in the same baseball league as Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Andrelton Simmons.
Projections for Lindor’s 2020 season are bullish on his continued excellence. Steamer at FanGraphs puts him at a 5.9 WAR season in 150 games. If you combine the projections from Steamer and Marcel (Baseball-Reference), Lindor will hit .285/.348/.524 with 33 homers and 18 stolen bases.
The Reds current shortstop, Freddy Galvis, is projected to hit .245/.294/.397 with 17 homers. Combine Galvis’ offensive numbers with his good defense and you have a projection of 0.2 WAR.
So the gap between Francisco Lindor and the Reds current plan in 2020 is about 6 WAR. By comparison, Mike Moustakas is projected as a 2.1 WAR player.
Francisco Lindor’s Contract
Francisco Lindor has 4 years and 131 days of major league service time. Cleveland waited until June 14 to call him up in 2015. The delay not only added a season of playing but also assured Lindor wouldn’t qualify for four years of arbitration as a Super Two player. Lindor can become a free agent in the 2022 season, so he comes with two years of team control.
Lindor played the first 3+ seasons for Cleveland at a salary in the range of league minimum. Last year, he qualified for arbitration for the first time and reached a deal with the team for $10.55 million avoiding a hearing. Projections for his salary in 2020 range from $16.7-17 million. Freddy Galvis will earn $5.5 million. With another great season, Lindor could earn around $25 million in 2021.
So a bottom line estimate for Lindor’s value over two years is 12 WAR for $42 million. A WAR on the free market is estimated to be worth about $8 million. Using those figures, Lindor would offer the Reds about $54 million in surplus value over two years.
NOTE: Check back at RC+ later today for analysis of what the Reds could offer Cleveland for Lindor.
[Featured image: https://twitter.com/Indians/status/1093932537951461378/photo/1]