Francisco Lindor is a very good prospect, ranked as the Indians’ No.1 prospect and the No.13 prospect in all of MLB by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com prior to the season. After posting incredible numbers in the early going for High-A Carolina (.312/.386/.435), you could look ahead to when he should be ready to be effective as an everyday player in Cleveland, likely 2015, and be very pleased with what the Indians’ future middle infield could look like, especially if the May-version of Jason Kipnis continues over the rest of the 2013 season.
However, after some pretty impressive trades and signings by management this offseason, the 2013 Cleveland Indians are built to win now, regardless of the acquisition of Trevor Bauer from the Arizona in the club’s three-team deal with the Diamondbacks and the Cincinnati Reds. Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Michael Bourn, and Yan Gomes have made tremendous contributions in the first two months of the season and with roughly two years of control remaining on Justin Masterson (one year of arbitration), Asdrubal Cabrera (a free agent after the 2014 season) and Ubaldo Jimenez ($8 million team option for 2014), the time to be aggressive within the team’s current window is now.
But how aggressive should the club be? Is it reasonable to deal the club’s top minor league asset to make an immediate improvement this season? Who would be acceptable to acquire?
Taking a look ahead to the trading deadline, here are some players that could be had:
Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants: “The Freak” has really struggled the last two seasons, posting a 5.07 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP over his last 246.2 innings. Considering he is a free agent after the 2013 season and the Giants are winning (28-24 as I write this), he is unlikely to be moved; however, if the Giants were to get Ryan Vogelsong healthy and are willing to trust Eric Surkamp coming back from Tommy John surgery or Mike Kickham in the No.5 spot, they could get a very good prospect in Lindor by paying Lincecum’s remaining contract, while giving the Indians a potential ace down the stretch. There is certainly risk involved, but Lincecum has just one career start (Kansas City) against the AL Central in his career, so there could be some early success against the division as the Indians hope to climb and stay at the top.
Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies: It’s clearly a long-shot that ownership would add enough payroll to take on nearly $90 million in salary over the next three seasons (counting a $12.5 buyout in 2016), but the Philadelphia Phillies are clearly reeling and in need of a youth influx. If the Indians were to package Lindor with Trevor Bauer and a couple of lower level prospects, they could likely add their former Cy Young back into a competitive roster. The amount of youth the Indians would have to give up could, potentially, be devastating to a farm system that is on the rise in recent seasons, but is there a fair price for success? Would Progressive Field be rocking like the Jake did in the ’90’s with this type of deal?
James Shields, RHP, Kansas City Royals: Don’t blame Shields for the Royals terrible start, that can go to manager Ned Yost and horrific presentations of swinging a bat by sub-par foundation talents Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Shields is rocking a 2.96 ERA, he is leading the AL in innings (79), and his 1.06 WHIP shows that he is still a shutdown arm, regardless of his 2-6 record. After the Royals gave up so much great young talent, namely Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, to acquire Shields this offseason, they are clearly heading in the wrong direction, yet again, and in need of either locking Shields up long-term or dealing him for more young talent. Alcides Escobar is young enough (and productive enough, though not-so-much this year compared to 2012) to stick at shortstop, but he has a nice, affordable deal and could be moved in a later trade to make room for Lindor in 2015. Shields, though, would be an excellent get for the Indians, and considering that he has a $12 million team option for 2014, would be money well spent, especially after committing $7 million to the shredded elbow ligament of Brett Myers this season. It would, likely, require Lindor-plus to get Shields, but with controllable time waning, the price will likely be less than what the Royals gave up this past offseason.
Notice a trend? A huge upgrade in starting pitching is the only way that the club should consider making a deal including Lindor. While the bullpen has struggled mightily, there is not a chance in Hades that the Indians should consider dealing their top prospect for Fernando Rodney, Grant Balfour, or Rafael Betancourt, even if Chris Perez misses extended time with his shoulder injury or if Vinnie Pestano or Joe Smith can’t successfully fill the closer’s role.
The offense that Terry Francona gets to run out daily is and has been very impressive. While its debatable that Mark Reynolds should be playing third base (please come back, Lonnie Chisenhall!), it is pretty evident that the team could get by, barring injury, with the current makeup of the roster.
So, what do you say? Would you trade the club’s most valuable commodity for an ace? Is he worth more? Is it worth giving up the future of the franchise to win now?