Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
The 2020 Major League Baseball season officially got underway Thursday night. With a trade deadline scheduled for August 31, mediocre teams have just over a month to decide whether they’ll be buyers or sellers.
For the Cleveland Indians, the distinction could be monumental. They have a tough decision looming with shortstop Francisco Lindor, who appears interested in reaching free agency following the 2021 season:
Keith Britton @KeithBritton86
.@keithlaw on @BullandFox more on #Indians – Lindor: “I personally think, knowing him and knowing who his representative is, they just want to go to free agency. My understanding is, the team was willing to talk extension with him and he just said ‘I’m going to free agency.'”
Lindor’s interest in reaching the open market isn’t surprising. In the wake of Mookie Betts’ monumental 13-year, $265 million extension, players like Lindor should feel that they can cash in by hitting the open market and/or landing with a team willing to spend big.
As Jeff Passan of ESPN noted, Betts’ deal should at least remind Lindor “to not panic.”
Lindor is likely to receive the big-money deal he wants, even if he has to get away from the Indians to do it. The problem for Cleveland is that keeping Lindor for two more seasons isn’t going to get them anything in return—and his value will be highest before the trade deadline.
Any team dealing for Lindor before September could have him for at least two postseason runs.
The Indians have made it fairly clear that they aren’t looking to take a low-ball offer.
“The Indians listened to offers for Lindor last winter and didn’t like what they heard. But trading him prior to his expiration date is the best way to inject new life into their system. While Lindor’s big 2021 price tag might be difficult for the Indians to absorb (especially in these conditions), it also has a big impact on his trade value, and you can’t just give away a once-in-a-generation player.”
Adding to Cleveland’s dilemma is the fact that the 2020 MLB postseason is going to include 16 teams. The Indians should have a good chance of making the playoffs, so they’ll also have to weigh Lindor’s pre-deadline trade value against their chances of parlaying a playoff appearance into a World Series run.
While Lindor is arguably the most notable player who could be traded before the deadline, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson is also likely to have his fair share of suitors if available. Last season, Pederson appeared in 149 games, batting .249 with an on-base percentage of .339.
While it would make sense for the Dodgers to hang onto the 28-year-old, they have already explored trading him, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
“The Dodgers thought they had a trade to send Pederson to the Angels in February, but the deal fell through,” Feinsand wrote. “If he was that close to being traded once, Pederson figures to be available this summer if the Dodgers—who have a glut of outfielders on their roster—are seeking an upgrade elsewhere.”
If Los Angeles does move Pederson, it shouldn’t expect much in return. Pederson, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, would merely be a short-term rental in what is already a shortened season.
According to Feinsand, Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was also the subject of trade buzz during the offseason and could be moved before the deadline:
“Bradley’s name was mentioned as a trade possibility all winter, though he and the Red Sox ultimately settled on an $11 million salary in his final year of arbitration. With Mookie Betts now wearing a Dodgers uniform and Chris Sale set to miss this season following Tommy John surgery—not to mention the great expectations for both the Yankees and Rays in the AL East—the Red Sox could find themselves in sell mode before the end of August. Bradley could be a solid addition for any contender in need of outfield help.”
Like Pederson, Bradley is set to become a free agent after the season. This means that he would likely be a dump-off option for Boston, unless the Red Sox make an unexpected push for one of the AL’s eight playoff spots.
What’s interesting about Boston’s situation is that they may have a replacement waiting in the wings to replace Bradley. 2018 seventh-round draft pick Jarren Duran impressed in the minors last year and in summer camp this season.
“He’s really good, man,” pitcher Martin Perez said, per John Tomase of NBC Sports Boston. “I love how he plays baseball, and I love how he runs the bases. He’s got amazing talent and a good future with us here. So his time is coming.”