SF Giants fans watched as their rival Los Angeles Dodgers traded for star Mookie Betts last offseason. If the Cleveland Indians make Francisco Lindor available, the Giants have an opportunity to do the same thing.
If the Cleveland Indians make shortstop Francisco Lindor available via trade, the SF Giants should be doing everything in their power to acquire him. After watching the Dodgers win their first World Series in 32 years after acquiring star outfielder Mookie Betts, the Giants cannot afford to pass on another opportunity to acquire one of the best players in baseball.
As more complex mathematical ways of thinking have seeped into MLB fandom and front-offices, it sometimes allows everyone to outthink the right decision. Better baseball players make better baseball teams. A team with more great players is best positioned to succeed. Lindor is a great baseball player. It’s just that simple.
Even in a down year at the plate for Lindor, the soon to be 27-year old posted 1.7 wins above replacement (WAR) in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. That’s on pace for nearly 4.6 WAR over a full 162-game season. While he posted a career-low .750 OPS, his elite defense at shortstop enabled him to separate himself from the pack.
Since his rookie season in 2015, Lindor has finished in the top-15 in AL MVP voting every year, reached every All-Star team, won two Gold Gloves, and a pair of Silver Slugger awards. However, part of a stacked 2021-22 free-agent class next offseason, the Cleveland Indians appear unwilling to meet Lindor’s price tag. Given their historical unwillingness to extend their own stars, many expect Cleveland to consider shopping Lindor.
Of course, the Giants currently have Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria slotted into their infield’s left side. However, Crawford may be a trade target of the New York Yankees or could even be shifted to third base if there was a market for Longoria.
While Crawford had a resurgent 2020 season, posting a career-high .792 OPS, he’s set to be 34 in 2021, it’s hard to see that as sustainable. With that said, before 2020, Lindor’s lowest-career OPS was .794. The fact is, Lindor, at his least effective, has been better than Crawford at his best.
Throw in Lindor’s youth relative to Crawford, and the move is a no-brainer. Granted, it’s not quite that simple. Adding Lindor will obviously come with a cost to the team’s farm system. Luckily for Giants fans, the team’s prospect depth has improved substantially over the last couple of seasons.
While cost-controlled young players are vital to building a champion, there’s no replacement for stars. If the Giants are really looking to become playoff contenders, they cannot solely rely on bounce-back candidates and the waiver wire. At some point, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi will need to take some risks. It’s hard to go wrong with a perenniel MVP contender.
Entering his final year of arbitration, Lindor is expected to make around $17.5 million in 2021. Since teams are taking an especially cheap approach to this offseason, even fewer teams will make competitive offers. Still, that price is a steal for a player of his caliber.
Besides, with massive payroll space becoming available soon, the Giants are very likely going to spend that money somewhere. Who better to pay than Lindor? The fact is, his free-agent market will be massive in 2021, especially if teams are able to welcome fans back to stadiums next season. Now the Giants have an opportunity to strike while most teams are tentative and lock Lindor into a long-term extension without ever having to worry about a free-agency bidding war.
The SF Giants may have a solid fan-favorite at shortstop right now, but few champions are built by taking everything for granted. Moving some prospects for a foundational piece like Francisco Lindor would be the easiest way for the team to take a huge step forward next season. The fact is, Brandon Crawford will always be one of the faces of the last Giants dynasty, but Lindor could be the face of the next.