David Dermer/Associated Press
It may not look exactly how we remember it, but Major League Baseball is back.
Games that actually matter begin Thursday night. The trade rumor mill is already active before then.
If the whispers come to fruition, multiple household names could be on the move. Let’s get to the latest below.
Francisco Lindor On His Way Out?
Trade vultures have been circling since Lindor and the Cleveland Indians tabled extension talks in March, as The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd reported. Back then, a wide gulf existed between the two parties, with Lindor confirming Cleveland’s offer stopped short of $300 million.
Assuming MLB finances eventually get back to normal, Lindor should blow past that number. He’s only 26 years old and has 70 homers and 47 steals to show for just the past two seasons.
That’s part of the reason why MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand labeled a Lindor trade as feeling “inevitable,” with the only uncertainty being whether it happens this season or in the offseason. With the All-Star shortstop under contract through 2021, it might behoove the Indians to move him sooner than later to extract maximum value on the trade market.
Saying that, a Lindor deal would be crushing for the fanbase and might veer this roster into a full-scale rebuild. Players of his ilk don’t come along often and letting him go in the heart of his prime—or, as scary as this sounds, before we’ve even seen his best—would be a tough pill to swallow regardless of what Cleveland gets in return.
Josh Bell On the Move?
While Bell hasn’t celebrated his 28th birthday yet, there’s a chance the Pirates have already seen him at his absolute best.
The power-hitting first baseman belted a career-high 37 homers last season and obliterated his previous best with 116 RBI (previous high was 90). Some could construe those numbers as evidence of a rising star, but Pittsburgh might be more skeptical about the numbers.
He’d never been this productive before, and he was really only elite for a short stretch (18 homers, 52 RBI his first 56 games; 19 and 64 his final 87). He was a .302 hitter before the All-Star break and a .233 hitter after.
If the Pirates aren’t convinced Bell is this good, that could make for uncomfortable extension talks between now and when he reaches free agency in 2022. It could also motivate Pittsburgh to move him well before that. As NJ.com’s Joe Giglio put it, “Bell is an obvious trade candidate on a rebuilding team.”
The Pirates shouldn’t be in a hurry to move Bell, but if someone will pay a premium based on last season’s numbers, it’s a possibility worth exploring.
Cubs Would Listen to Kris Bryant Offers?
The Cubs recently built a postseason regular out of a slew of young, talented players. They’re starting to realize how expensive that can be.
Kris Bryant, NL MVP in 2016 (his second season in the majors), needs a new deal between now and 2021. There’s only one problem: Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber need to get paid during this same stretch.
Chicago probably won’t cover the costs for all of them, and Bryant’s name has buzzed on the rumor mill for months. The way Feinsand sees it, a Bryant deal is most likely an offseason endeavor, but “an overwhelming offer could tempt Chicago to move the former MVP depending on the Cubs’ place in the standings.”
If the Cubs keep Bryant past this deadline, they can’t market him as more than a rental. If he’s moved before then, he could help his next club with two postseason races. That could sweeten the return package to the point Chicago has to listen, provided it’s not in position to contend for the crown with Bryant this season.