It’s happened before, Cleveland being the center of the baseball universe. There was a time when Albert Belle, Jim Thome, and Manny Ramirez were thumping baseballs into the stratosphere there, driving in the likes of Roberto Alomar and Kenny Lofton at record rates in front of packed houses at The Jake.
Right now, the eyes of everyone in the game are again focused on Cleveland, albeit for a much different reason. Just days after sending two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to Texas in a bit of a shocker, rumors that Francisco Lindor may be on the move, too, have sent a bit of a chill down the collective spine of the baseball offseason.
The fact is, there isn’t a team in the game that wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, do absolutely every single thing in their might to land Lindor, one of the handful of best players in the game today. If you’ve got a star shortstop, you still try for Lindor, as he’s either better than both your shortstop and second basemen or at least one of them. If you’ve got a package of players and prospects that Cleveland would potentially say ‘yes’ to, you offer it. If you’ve got payroll space, you leave it open for that very possibility, since there’d be nothing more embarrassing than finding out after you’ve doled out a huge free agent contract that yes, Cleveland actually liked your farm system best and that you could’ve had Lindor.
It’s increasingly likely that we’ll get to wait out the rest of the Hot Stove action for a bit while Cleveland decides just what it really wants to do. While they’ve pretty well gone public with the idea that Lindor isn’t going to be part of their franchise beyond his current two years of team control, they do still have that team control - and don’t have to trade him just yet. They know they’d likely get more for him now than this time in a year, but they aren’t facing a move-him-or-lose-him scenario just yet. They can wait to see if they’re bowled over by an offer, and it certainly behooves them to do just that.
So, Josh Donaldson will likely have to wait, since while he’s absolutely a game-changing player, Lindor is, quite frankly, better. Younger. Cheaper, even. Someone will likely dole out a contract pushing $100 million for Donaldson should they whiff on Lindor, but they’re going to let those dominos fall first.
We’ve already heard that Marcell Ozuna is likely waiting on Josh Donaldson to sign, which means he now gets to wait twice, potentially.
Even the likes of Dallas Keuchel may get to wait, as teams in the market for Lindor might even be forced to deal from their active roster to do so, and there are few more prized pieces in the game today than cheap, pre-arb pitchers who’ve already cut it at the big league level. Trade one of those to land Lindor, and suddenly Keuchel might be much more of a need for your starting rotation than you previously thought - and you better believe Scott Boras knows the heck out of that.
Add-in that the holiday season is upon us, and it’s increasingly likely that one of two things will play out in the coming week. Either we’ll see nothing major take place for a few days before Cleveland tips their cap on Lindor’s true availability, or this article will become immediately irrelevant minutes after posting when Lindor is dealt to, I dunno, Atlanta. My best guess, though, is that it’ll be the former, with Cleveland getting initial reads from other clubs before taking a long winter nap for a few days, coming back before the new year to truly decide their fate.
In the meantime, you’ll see tankers like Detroit scoop up a few one-year bargains, as they know both a) they likely don’t have the chops to land Lindor even if they wanted and won’t be contenders in either 2020 or 2021. That, though, will likely be it for a few days, so have a warm beverage and rest your feet for a few days before the Hot Stove gets fired up once again.