Cleveland Indians: After 2019 season time to trade Francisco Lindor

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Francisco Lindor is under the Cleveland Indians control for three more seasons, but the best time to trade him may be next offseason.

Francisco Lindor talked, the media listened, and now the public has hit DEFCON-5 on when the Cleveland Indians’ shortstop will depart the franchise via free agency.

The press caught up to Lindor and asked about his calf injury, as well as free agency, even though he’s under team control for another three seasons.

But, when you turn down a $100 million contract extension five years before you hit free agency, which Lindor reportedly did before the start of the 2017 season, your contract and commitment to the organization are constantly going to be questioned.

Lindor didn’t say anything crazy to the press. He said he likes Cleveland. Great. It doesn’t mean he’s staying. Heck LeBron James, who’s from here, left twice.

Lindor’s a native of Puerto Rico. He grew up in Florida. Guys rarely live in the cities they play for year-round. Location just probably doesn’t matter to the Gold Glover, and that’s OK.

If the Indians give him what he wants, he’ll be happy to listen.

But they probably won’t. It’s not like the team is drawing record attendance with him in the lineup.

It’s been well documented how ownership has instructed the front office to scale back on payroll.  So the Indians have three years of Lindor left, meaning they can go two avenues. Trade him, or have him ride out his controllable years in an Indians uniform.

Really, if a trade is to come down, next offseason would be the time to do it because the Tribe would score a major prospect package in return. Just think of what the top teams in baseball would doll out for two years of the best of the best short-stop in the game.

Plus, he’ll probably continue going to arbitration the next two offseason and his salary will likely be around the $10.55. In the world of baseball, that is dirt cheap.

The Indians can set themselves up for the future with a Lindor deal, while adequately fielding the position in the short-term. It’s not like anyone actually wants to trade Lindor, it’s just the reality of playing in a small market.

On the flip side, the Tribe could go all in on what I’ve tabbed as the “Lindor window,” meaning give it everything you’ve got to win the World Series with the best shortstop in the game.

The Tribe was trending this way after the Indians came oh-so close in 2016, but after falling well short in the 2017 and 2018 postseasons, the commitment to get over the hump just doesn’t seem to be there. Perhaps the Tribe does something in-season to get closer to that elusive World Series title. Doubtful, but not out of the question.

If the Indians went full-speed-ahead, building a lineup around Lindor, it’d be much more palatable when it came time for Lindor to walk away.

Alas, that doesn’t look like the roadmap that’s being followed. The Tribe made their play for him and Lindor declined the extension. His contract with New Balance afforded the ability to gamble on himself.

If Lindor sticks around, enjoy every second of him. But a trade next offseason may be the most prudent decision this team can make.