The Yankees must resist urge to trade for Francisco Lindor
The New York Yankees and Francisco Lindor are a match made in the dreams of pinstripe-donning New Yorkers. Lindor fills a need at shortstop, he’s available for trade, and he’s one of the premier players in MLB.
Lindor is an entertainer. He must lead the league in smiles per season, and that’s not the only category he excels in. The Cleveland Indians shortstop is among the best defenders at his position, he’s an elite hitter from both sides of the plate and possesses more than useful speed on the base paths.
Gleyber Torres‘ future lies away from short. If DJ LeMahieu returns, the Yankees have two elite infielders, but a gaping hole at the most important defensive position. Lindor is a perfect fit, and he would give them the foundation of the best infield in baseball alongside Torres and LeMahieu. The desire to add a talent like Lindor to an already contending Yankees team is clear, but that doesn’t mean a trade would be a good decision.
USA Today reported of Cleveland’s desire to finally move Lindor after what feels like constant speculation. Jon Morosi confirmed those intentions, adding an important point. According to Morosi, the Indians want three players for Lindor, either in the Majors or close to their debut.
That’s a big ask for a player who is scheduled for free agency next offseason. Maybe Brian Cashman’s hesitancy to extend LeMahieu is a waiting game to see what the real cost is for Lindor. Retaining LeMahieu and trading for Lindor should be an option for Cashman, but the delay on any LeMahieu news suggests that might not on the table at the moment. Using LeMahieu around the infield, with Torres at second and Lindor at short is the ideal, albeit expensive, scenario.
Signing LeMahieu should be a top priority, and that can take the pressure off the Lindor chase. The Yankees, if Cleveland can force a bidding war, would probably have to give up Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt and a more established Major League player – what’s Miguel Andujar‘s trade value at this point?
That’s a lot to give up. The Yankees have serious work to do with their rotation. Letting Garcia and/or Schmidt go would force them to spend substantially in free agency – Luis Gil is still a long way from the Majors.
The price reported by Morosi is too high for the Yankees at this time. One of Garcia and Schmidt and then other prospects from lower down would be justifiable for Cashman, but three players who can help the Yankees in 2021 is not a sensible spend.
Injuries in 2019 and 2020 might have the Yankees getting twitchy. The trades, led by the blockbuster Giancarlo Stanton addition, haven’t guided them to the promised land. Aaron Judge‘s health has become a permanent question mark looming over the franchise.
What the Yankees are aiming for, though, is not an all-in push in 2021. They want to build a sustainable foundation around their high-paid stars. Lindor could become one of those costly players in 2021, but there’s no rush with this group. Cashman can bide his time, re-sign LeMahieu for 2021 and re-evaluate the shortstop market next winter.
A Lindor trade will force the Yankees to relinquish cost controllable, effective Major Leaguers. Those players are invaluable to any team, but particularly one looking to contend over a prolonged period, and needing to pad out a roster around bumper contracts like Gerrit Cole and Stanton.
Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Javier Baez and Corey Seager are set to join Lindor in free agency next offseason. Some may get extended, but there are Lindor alternatives for the Yankees. If they want a defensive improvement at short for 2021, Andrelton Simmons will be attainable on a one-year deal. Maybe Marcus Semien heads to the Bronx to rebuild his value after a down year in 2020.
Trading for Lindor is the glamour option. The four-time All-Star would be an upgrade, and he has the personality to thrive under the Yankee Stadium spotlight. The price, for a one-year deal, when so many top-tier shortstops are available in 12 months’ time, is just too much. The Yankees don’t need to make ultra-win-now moves, even for a generational talent like Lindor.