Weekly Mailbag: My Best Lindor Trade Proposal, Catching Options, and Pitching!
By Andy Singer
As excited as I am that the hot stove is heating up, I remain concerned that most teams, including the Yankees, will turn to austerity measures this year given the financial uncertainty brought by the pandemic, regardless what I think of the owners’ claims regarding in-game revenue. We are already seeing signs that teams are acting cautiously. Marcus Stroman accepted the Mets’ Qualifying Offer, though that was within the realm of possibility after an injury-shortened 2019 and a lost 2020 season. However, no team put in a waiver claim for elite reliever Brad Hand, despite the fact that the cost to do so was just $10 million. The Cardinals released Kolten Wong rather than hold onto him for a couple of months to find a trade partner. It’s not definitive yet, but the signs all point to a rather cold winter in baseball. That will impact many of our projections, so I feel less certain than ever in any of my assumptions regarding player values, given the ulterior motives at play for many teams.
In this week’s mailbag, I’ll give you my best offer for Francisco Lindor, talk about the Yankees’ options at catcher, and a pitching target! As always, keep sending your questions to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com, and I’ll answer a few each week. Let’s get at it:
Robert asks: I’ve been following all of the posts on this site and others about possible trades for Lindor. You’ve said that a trade would have to ‘hurt’. What’s you’re best offer for Lindor?
First off, I would like to make one thing clear: I do want Lindor. I understand if some people may have gotten the impression that I don’t want him given some of my comments over the last few months, but he is pretty clearly the best SS in baseball and he’s young. I’ve critiqued a lot of other trade proposals, so it’s only fair that I try my hand at a proposal of my own.
Before I go for it, let’s look at a couple of factors that need to be considered. First, let’s look at where the Indians are as a team without Lindor. Without Lindor, it is unreasonable to expect the Indians to be a legitimate contender in 2021. The Indians have a solid pitching staff, an MVP-caliber 3B, and not much else around the diamond following a Lindor trade. Even supplementing the lineup with a couple of controllable, cheap big league players around the diamond merely makes the lineup playable, and likely wouldn’t equal having one player of Lindor’s caliber from a value perspective Thus, proposals that include obvious “win-now” pieces really don’t work for the Indians. I think the Indians need to get pieces that get closer to helping them rebuild than immediately re-tool, particularly if the primary goal of their offseason is to get less expensive (which it clearly seems to be).
Second, we need to assess where Lindor’s value really stands. Sure, he only has one year of team control remaining, and he struggled for much of the summer prior to perking up in September. However, Lindor has been the best defensive shortstop in the league not named Andrelton Simmons since he burst onto the scene in 2015, he has been a well-above average at the plate for the majority of his big league career, he adds diversity to the lineup as a switch hitter who displays low strikeout rates and good walk rates while slashing line drives, and he is highly marketable, playing the game with flair and grace. Oh, and he’ll be just 27 years old during the 2021 season, so he likely has 5-6 prime years remaining at one of the most important positions on the diamond. Every team should want Lindor. So, even with the contractual factors working against him, he’s still going to be really expensive, unless Cleveland turns into the 2012 Marlins overnight.
So, what does Cleveland need? Let’s start with the big prize. Sure, the rotation and bullpen are already good, but sometimes, the best way to remain competitive in the near term while planning for a long-term rebuild is to build on strengths. Carlos Carrasco is signed for 3 more years, but he is getting older, and has an injury history. Behind Bieber, the Indians have a collection of solid, not great, starters. Let’s start with a young, projectable starter with nearly no MLB service time: Clarke Schmidt.
The Yankees and Indians also match-up on another front: Miguel Andujar. As much as I love Miggy, he really doesn’t fit the Yankees’ current roster, and as much as I believe he will hit, the Yankees just don’t have anywhere they can play him. The Indians can find space for Andujar at any number of positions while giving him the playing time to prove that he really is a DH long-term. Andujar also comes with 5 years of team control, so he is a piece for now and the future. However, Andujar’s value is significantly lower than it has ever been, so I think Andujar needs to be supplemented by at least two players with significant upside.
To find upside, the Yankees need to include two younger prospects with strong upside and the potential to be building blocks of the next winning Cleveland roster. I have seen many people throw Estevan Florial’s name out there, but I have a hunch that fans and media value Florial far more than the rest of baseball at this point. He’s missed a significant chunk of action for 3 years in a row, and given the fact that his greatest flaw as a prospect is pitch recognition, I think he is a high-risk prospect whose likelihood of becoming an everyday player has diminished significantly. However, I do think that two prospects who fit right around Florial in the 2020 SSTN Top 15 Prospects list fit the bill: SS Oswald Peraza and 2B Ezequiel Duran.
Both Peraza and Duran would be Top-5 prospects in a lot of systems across baseball. Peraza is the real prize, as a prospect who was rising quickly through the minor leagues prior to the pandemic. He will turn 21 during the season, and is universally praised for his defensive potential at SS while displaying good pitch recognition and bat control despite facing older competition as a 19 year old in Low-A in 2019. As he fills out, Peraza will likely add pop to his line-drive swing. Duran is another prospect who flies under the radar. Just a year older than Peraza, Duran is more mature physically than Peraza and projects to be able to handle 2B despite middling range. Duran’s calling card is his bat, as he has been lauded for hitting balls hard all over the field, swatting 13 HR in just 277 plate appearances in 2019.
So, that’s my trade: Schmidt, Andujar, Peraza, and Duran for Lindor. For reference, here’s what it looks like on Baseball Trade Values’ Trade Simulator:
Click To Enlarge
Despite what the simulator says, I think I’m probably light, though my read is that many talent evaluators are higher on Duran and Peraza than is acknowledged publicly. Again, this trade is for one year of Lindor. Even if we assume the Yankees are provided a window to negotiate a long-term deal exclusively with Lindor, the Indians are still only providing the Yankees with one year of Lindor’s services. I’m not sure that I’d be willing to trade more from the starting big league roster to make a trade happen, but I think that this trade would be more appealing to the Indians than other iterations that include big leaguers. This trade hurts, as all of these guys have a ton of upside, and could easily help form a core of a great team in the not distant future.
Jake asks: The Yankees are kicking the tires on Yadier Molina and probably other non-Realmuto catchers available. What do you think? Are Sanchez’s days in NY over?
The Yankees have to do their due diligence on the available catchers in the Free Agent market after what happened last year. As much as I remain a Sanchez believer, the Yankees need some certainty at the position. I was impressed by what Higashioka brought to the table this year (though I’ve long thought that he could be a productive MLB catcher), but I’m not sure that he is someone you can count on to start given his injury history.
Molina is a really interesting case study. He is very old for a catcher (he turns 39 during the 2021 season), but while his offense is far more below average than average these days, he makes contact at the plate, and remains very good defensively. He certainly won’t demand the $20 million he makes now on his next deal, but he is likely entitled to platoon catcher money (I would expect roughly $10-15 million). I don’t think that I would want to count on Molina as my everyday starter, but I have a very intriguing thought. It would be expensive, but I think Molina may be the perfect catcher to pair with Gary Sanchez. Who better to help Sanchez defensively behind the plate than a catcher with Molina’s reputation? I think Molina would give Sanchez someone with whom he could both compete and learn from. Molina could play 2-3 times per week while Sanchez catches and relieves Stanton at DH, thus keeping both injury-prone players fresher. Again, this requires that the Yankees commit real dollars to the catcher position, but it may be an idea that has even greater upside than just signing Realmuto outright.
That idea is one that may be more fantasy than reality, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. In short, I think the Yankees are likely to add a catcher, but I think that it will be someone to pair with Sanchez, not someone that ousts him.
Greg asks: If you could have one pitcher on the current free agent market who would it be?
Tanaka, is too easy, so I won’t go that route. Frankly, I am more bullish on the young Yankee starters than others. I think that both Monty and Garcia are ready to make jumps, and could be really good in 2021. Add in the fact that Sevy should be back by mid-2021, and suddenly the Yanks rotation looks pretty darn good. I’d like a reliable innings eater, but besides that, I’d be happy running into the playoffs with Cole, Sevy, Monty, and Garcia in the rotation.
However, the bullpen, a crutch on which the Yankees could lean in years past, needs some help. Ottavino has left the circle of trust, Kahnle is gone, and the Yankees don’t have anyone that they can definitively assume will fulfill those roles. I want some certainty there, so I’m going against the grain and saying that I want a premium reliever. Based on that, I want Trevor Rosenthal. Now that injury and control issues are behind him, his high-octane stuff makes him the bullpen arm on the market most likely to be dominant in 2021.