CLEVELAND — Francisco Lindor is moving to a new city and team that is willing to meet his salary demands.
The four-time Cleveland All-Star shortstop — and one of baseball’s best all-around players — was traded Thursday by the Indians along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets, who have a new owner willing to spend at baseball’s highest levels.
The cash-strapped Indians sent Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets for infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, right-hander Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene — a move Cleveland hopes will keep it competitive and capable of ending baseball’s longest World Series title drought.
Dealing Lindor, who is eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, was inevitable for the mid-market Indians, who are unable to compete financially with MLB’s big spenders and dropped roughly $30 million in dealing two prominent players and fan favorites.
“These are people we care about, not just players, and guys that loved the organization and have great memories here,” said Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, who said he was in tears when he spoke with Lindor and Carrasco. “Trades like this are really tough. But it’s the right thing to do.”
For the Mets, landing Lindor is a home run and another major move by hedge fund owner Steven Cohen, who bought the team on Nov. 6 from the Wilpon and Katz families and has pledged to increase spending.
One of his next big-ticket items figures to be signing Lindor to a long-term contract, something the Indians couldn’t do.
The 27-year-old Lindor can affect the game with his bat, glove and legs. A two-time Gold Glove winner, he’s a career .285 hitter and averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011 and developed him.
He has also been the face of the Indians’ franchise, with an infectious smile and joy for playing that has made him one of Cleveland’s most popular athletes. But he’s gone now, leaving the Indians without their best player and the team’s fans grumbling about owner Paul Dolan.
Carrasco is one of the game’s best comeback stories, overcoming leukemia to become one of the AL’s steadiest starters. The 33-year-old has an 88-73 career record with a 3.73 ERA.
With an abundance of young pitchers, including Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, the Indians were in position to move a player of Carrasco’s caliber.
He can be replaced. Finding someone to fill Lindor’s shoes will be much tougher.
Once the Indians’ pandemic-shortened 2020 season ended with a loss to the New York Yankees in the wild-card round, it became a matter of when, and not if, Lindor would be traded.
Cleveland had run out of options. Lindor has turned down numerous long-term contract offers from the Indians, betting on himself and knowing he could get more money from a major-market team when he becomes a free agent.
He’s only signed for another season, so the Mets will have to work quickly to lock up Lindor long-term.
The Indians made it known that Lindor was available for the right price. And while it’s never easy to trade a generational talent with perhaps his best years still ahead of him, Cleveland’s financial situation was never going to make it possible to keep him.
Cohen is hoping to turn around a franchise that has not won a World Series since 1986. He hired general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, brought back former GM Sandy Alderson as team president and hired Jared Porter from Arizona as GM under Alderson.
Lindor had $6,481,481 in prorated pay from a $17.5 million salary last year, and is eligible for free agency after the 2021 season.
Carrasco is signed at $12 million in each of the next two seasons, part of a deal that includes a $14 million million team option for 2023 with a $3 million buyout. The option would become guaranteed if he pitches in 170 innings in 2022 and is found to be healthy for the 2023 season.
Since Cohen’s takeover, New York has kept pitcher Marcus Stroman for an $18.9 million qualifying offer, signed right-hander Trevor May to a $15.5 million, two-year contract and catcher James McCann, to a $40.6 million, four-year deal. New York also signed injured right-hander Noah Syndergaard to a $9.7 million, one-year deal.
Rosario is eligible for arbitration for the first time after earning $225,474 prorated from a $608,780 salary.
Story by Tom Withers.