According to a report, Cleveland Indians star shortstop Francisco Lindor turned down an extension offer worth almost $100 million.
The Cleveland Indians have made a habit of signing their core players to early long-term deals, and shortstop Francisco Lindor is one of the most exciting young talents in all of baseball. It only makes sense that they would try to secure his services for the foreseeable future as well, even though he is still under team control through the 2021 season.
According to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, the Tribe made a contract offer worth nearly $100 million to Lindor before the start of the season. The fact that Cleveland and Lindor were discussing a new deal this spring is not new information. Who could forget Indians general manager Mike Chernoff’s six-year-old son precociously blurting out that his dad was looking to get his coveted shortstop to sign up for “seven more years”?
But we now know just how bold an effort the Indians made – and the big pile of cash the 23-year-old Lindor turned down.
Verducci connects Lindor to a growing trend of elite young MLB players standing firm against giving away free agent years too soon. The Cubs have had similar difficulty locking down Kris Bryant, for instance. The same with the Astros and Carlos Correa. That’s not to say nobody elects the financial security, however: The Angels signed Mike Trout to a deal in 2014, and the Rangers just closed one with Rougned Odor last month.
Nevertheless, everyone now seems to be looking ahead to that mythical 2018-19 free agent class headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Both will be just 26 years old when they hit the open market, so many teams won’t think twice about handing out a 10-year deal (or maybe even more).
Verducci quotes an agent who claims we are in for a “market re-setting” when these guys enter free agency, meaning they will redefine how young players of that age and talent level are valued. Indeed, we’ve already heard whispers of $400 million and similarly massive numbers. Who thought in 2000 that Alex Rodriguez‘s mega-contract with the Rangers might one day look positively quaint?
Though he would have to wait a few more years, it’s not unreasonable to think Lindor could command a deal in that neighborhood if he continues on his present trajectory. In only 271 big league games, the shortstop has already proven himself a stud with both the bat and the glove.
Since his 2015 debut, Lindor owns a .308/.360/.466 slash line (115 OPS+). He’s shown some pop for a middle infielder, belting 12 home runs in 99 games in his rookie season and adding another 15 last year. The Puerto Rico native finished as the runner-up behind fellow shortstop Correa in the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year race, and earned some MVP votes in 2016 along with the first of what should be many All-Star Game selections.
Lindor gets it done in the field as well, providing 27 DRS (defensive runs saved) of value over his first two seasons. His 11.8 fWAR since 2015 leads all major league shortstops. He also flourished in his first taste of playoff action last fall, posting an .820 OPS with two homers and six RBI throughout the postseason.
Though we don’t know all the details of Cleveland’s offer, it was certainly a lot to turn down. But you can’t really blame Lindor for betting on himself. He’s already asserted himself as one of the game’s best at his position, and he’s only going to get better. As it stands, Lindor will turn 28 just after he becomes a free agent. If he keeps performing at this level, he should land a contract that dwarfs the almost $100 million he reportedly declined.
Don’t expect the Indians to stop trying to reach a deal, though. Lindor is the face of their franchise and they’ll aim to keep him in the fold as long as possible.