Recently, new writer Andrew Schmid wrote an article about why the team shouldn’t call up Francisco Lindor now. I’d like to contest that point of few with a bold yet stable idea: call him up in a part-time role.
Rookie Jose Ramirez certainly has a lot going for him. He’s batting .302 in the second half (albeit without much power), and he’s learning how to take his walks. But he’s got a glaring weakness: he’s only hitting .231 from the left side of the plate. His numbers from the right side of the plate in 2014? .325/.357/.425, and those numbers are even better if you only include the second half.
Enter Lindor. With smaller splits and a higher likelihood to hit for some power, Lindor could be a great platoon mate for Jose Ramirez down the stretch. Even better, he can serve as a late-game defensive replacement when the Tribe is trying to cling to a lead in the final innings of a ballgame. While Jose Ramirez’ UZR is almost at league average, Lindor’s defense is unanimously rated as the best in the minor leagues, and is sure to translate to the majors. He could make a huge difference coming into the game to lock down the left side of the infield.
So why start his service clock? After all, if the Indians waited until the third or fourth week of the season to call him up, they’d add an extra year of team control (and arbitration) to his contract. That would keep him in an Indians uniform longer, and give the Indians extra leverage in contract extension negotiations. Why should the Indians give that up? The answer is simple: because chances to win are sacred.
Upon a call-up to the majors, Lindor would instantly become the Tribe’s best defensive player, maybe one of the better offensive players as well. In the minors, he has hit for average at every level, taken his walks, and shown flashes of power. In a part-time role, he can help the Indians win this year. The Indians are only 3.5 games behind the Royals for first place in the division (and another likely win once Sunday’s game resumes on September 22nd), and have a lot of momentum going for them right now. The Tigers are slipping with the struggles of Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, not to mention the fact that Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria may be out for the year. The Indians are within striking distance of their second consecutive playoff berth for the first time since the 90s.
True, the Indians don’t lose any important players at the end of this year. They may be able to contend next year as well. But teams like the 2013 Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers (and the 2007 Cleveland Indians) have proven to us that just because you’re a contending team one year doesn’t mean you’ll automatically contend the next. The Rangers were ravaged by injuries this year when they expected to contend for a World Series, and the Boston Red Sox simply fell apart due to lackluster performances from players who declined drastically. Either of these could happen to the Indians next year. We saw last year that big years from players like Justin Masterson and Jason Kipnis don’t necessarily translate to the next season.
The Tigers have an enormous payroll and will no-doubt be able to fix their problems next year by doling out a bunch of cash. The White Sox and the Twins have been in rebuild mode but are only going to get better next year, with players like Carlos Rodon, Matt Davidson, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Kohl Stewart all likely to make appearances in the majors at some point. The Royals will be losing James Shields at the end of this year, but the rest of their pitching staff (and most of their offense) are under contract for quite a while. If a team has a good chance to win, and I’m confident that they do, they should do everything within their power to win now. Keeping an elite player in the minors simply to add an extra year of team control six years from now would not be along those lines.