If you want my Browns thoughts for the week, you can find my post yesterday on the Browns bye week blues and the fact that it’s compounded with a trip to Foxboro to face the undefeated Patriots Sunday afternoon. For now, I’m here talking about my wife’s favorite player, Mr. Smile.1 Since yesterday was “Local Francisco Lindor Anxiety Day” over at The Athletic, with pieces from both Jason Lloyd and Zack Meisel contemplating the woes of the All-Star, Silver Slugger, perpetual MVP candidate and frankly good dude Lindor and what the front office are able to offer the biggest homegrown star since Jim Thome, I’d figure I’d throw in my two cents about what I think is lacking in this conversation. Here is a pertinent piece from Meisel’s article that will inform my feelings on the matter:
“Here are the 10 most lucrative contracts in baseball history, with the player’s age at the time of signing in parentheses:
Mike Trout, Angels: 12 years, $426.5 million extension (27)
Bryce Harper, Phillies: 13 years, $330 million free-agent deal (26)
Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: 13 years, $325 million extension (25)
Manny Machado, Padres: 10 years, $300 million free-agent deal (26)
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 10 years, $275 million extension (32)
Nolan Arenado, Rockies: 8 years, $260 million extension (27)
Alex Rodriguez, Rangers: 10 years, $252 million free-agent deal (25)
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 8 years, $248 million extension (30)
Albert Pujols, Angels: 10 years, $240 million free-agent deal (31)
Robinson Canó, Mariners: 10 years, $240 million free-agent deal (31)”2
This is important to think about because Lindor will be around 28 when he is eligible for free agency, barring any last-minute extensions from Cleveland or any other team he is dealt to beforehand.3 If Cleveland has any hope of signing Lindor to an extension, we would look at what Nolan Arenado got from Colorado as a template: an eight-year, $260 million extension, which given he had already signed a $26 million contract to avoid his last season of arbitration, becomes a seven-year, $234 million extension. Lindor still has two more years of arbitration left, making $10,550,000 in 2019 in his first arb year, so buying out those two seasons would be interesting, as those years are years when the club is banking on him not making free market value. But let’s go off the eight-year, $260 million number. I want to look and answer three questions that were asked in our WFNY Slack yesterday:4 can the Indians sign Lindor to such a deal, should they sign Lindor to such a deal, and would Lindor sign such a deal? We often hear about how they should sign the player regardless because that’s what you do with homegrown star players, but I want to examine the “can”, “should” and “would” of the situation, since those are important questions that always seem to get lost. Let’s start with “can”
Can the Indians sign Francisco Lindor to an 8yr/$260mill deal?
Probably. It would mean the team has to go on a “diet” when it comes to spending. Because the team is tightlipped about its income and profit numbers5 we have to take them at their word when they cry poor and economy flying on Southwest. We can argue about whether or not they are lying about losing money when other teams are taking home profits, but it doesn’t matter because we will never know the real truth. Regardless, we move on.
The team infamously cut payroll in the winter of 2018, landing around $136 million in payroll by the end of the season, which is after adding Yasiel Puig’s adjusted $3 million at the trade deadline. For purposes of this exercise, let’s say the Indians are comfortable with a $130 million payroll at the start of the season and are willing to add some, not a lot, at the trade deadline, so any deals going forward are under that amount. If Lindor were to sign the 8/260, he would be making $32.5 million AAV, which would represent 24.6% of the $130 million, leaving the front office with 75.4% to fill the rest of the roster with talent. That is a big number to be saving for a single person, the highest percentage of payroll any one player makes is Max Scherzer at 22.28%. Signing Lindor to “the deal” would mean more bargain shopping in the minor league invitee pool party, ala Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, but the team was already doing that soooo what do they care.
Should the Indians sign Lindor to an 8yr/$260mill deal?
No.6 This is the crux of my arguments, and to steal from above, having Lindor make 24.6% of your payroll is an astronomical amount. We always assume the best decision is to sign the star before he goes elsewhere because that is what every other team does. For better or worse, Cleveland never operates like every other team. Is it possible that the best course of action for sustained years of contention is to trade Lindor? If it costs the team 24.6% of your payroll to keep said player, it’s possible. What happens in four years when Jose Ramirez’s contract is done? Is it feasible that Cleveland will attempt to pay two players 50% of their payroll, or will THAT homegrown star have to be dealt because Lindor was here first? And what about all those pitchers? Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber are the backbone of future contention. What happens when they become arbitration-eligible or free agents? Backing yourself into a corner financially is never a smart thing to do, and by signing Lindor to “the deal” would do just that. You do have to gauge fan levels of interest and contempt when your attendance is near the bottom, but you have to ask yourself: are you ok being a bad team around a good player, or would you rather deal that player now to maximize the return and ride the wave to contention in years to come? I’m really sad to say, it’s almost time to trade Lindor.
Would Lindor sign an 8yr/$260mill deal with Cleveland?
All outward signs point to yes, but we can’t be sure. He has intimated that Cleveland is his home, that he loves the city, the fans, everything. And he has said recently that if the deal is right for his market value, he would sign an extension, keeping him in Tribe colors for most of his playing career. However, there is that shadow of doubt in the back of the minds of Indians fans everywhere that maybe he wants to be wooed. Maybe he wants to play under the lights of New York in pinstripes, play a full season of home games bouncing doubles off the Green Monster, fill the superstar hole in Washington vacated by Bryce Harper, allowing for the big market city where he would play to catapult his marketing to the very very top. Again, we have to take the player at his word, that if Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff scrounge up the coin, he would sign the dotted line and be the only Indians star to stay. The argument remains about whether or not they actually should, but we will live to see that day in the future.