Francisco Lindor, Indians stop discussions about potential contract extension, per report

Cleveland and star shortstop Francisco Lindor have appeared more likely than not to part ways ahead of his date with free agency following the 2021 season. The probability of a split increased this week, at least by a little bit, as Lindor and the organization have agreed to “set aside” extension talks so he can focus on the upcoming season, according to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. 

Lindor, 26, has proven to be an All-Star-caliber performer. Over more than 700 games, he’s hit .288/.347/.493 (119 OPS+) with 130 home runs and 93 steals. He’s also an elite-level defender, and he’s been durable enough to average 154 games across his four full big-league seasons. In other words, he’s a highly desirable player — and one who will soon be handsomely rewarded.

Lindor, for his part, has made a reasonable point to Cleveland’s management by noting that the club could pay him and field a competitive team around him, provided front office members were willing to commit to a $120 million payroll, per Lloyd. What’s funny is that Cleveland’s Opening Day payroll has exceeded $119 million in each of the last three seasons, which would seem to make an extension possible between the two sides. What’s sad is that Cleveland’s payroll this Opening Day, around $90 million per Cot’s Contracts, is presumably closer to ownership’s liking, on-the-field product be danged.  

Cleveland engaged with teams on Lindor over the offseason, per league sources, and figures to continue talks at the deadline and into the winter, depending on how the team performs. Cleveland is no stranger to making tough calls due to a self-imposed budget, having traded increasingly expensive starters Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer over the past seven months.

It’s at least possible that a Lindor trade could propel Cleveland into a full rebuild, in which the team would consider moving starter Mike Clevinger, third baseman Jose Ramirez, closer Brad Hand, and other desirable talents. Cleveland has, in the past anyway, mostly avoided that route, opting instead to balance competing now with keeping a manageable cap sheet. Most of Cleveland’s farm system is on the younger side of things.

Despite a dull offseason, Cleveland is expected to compete for a playoff berth in 2020. The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox will make winning the American League Central difficult, but a run at a wild-card spot seems possible, if not probable. 

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