Cleveland fans were warned in March of 2019 to “enjoy him”, but the long anticipated move finally happened on Thursday as the Indians announced the trade of four-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets.
Joining Lindor in relocating to Queens was starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, the longest tenured representative of the franchise and a fan favorite after his public battle with leukemia two seasons ago. His name was floated about some during the Winter Meetings, but with several years of control at what was perceived as a reasonable cost, his inclusion frees up significant finances over the next few years from a position of strength in the Indians organization. The Indians have previously over the last several years dealt from the starting rotation, removing Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and Corey Kluber for packages of prospects or just general salary relief.
Cleveland acquired four players from New York in the swap, including a pair of middle infielders with big league experience in Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez and two other top ten prospects in pitcher Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene. The trade marked a huge gain for new Mets owner Steve Cohen, who was expected to be a big player in free agency due to the lack of attractive names in the club’s farm system. The Mets remain under the luxury tax threshold and could still add a player or two to the current lineup.
Lindor, the fan favorite and face of the franchise, was expected to be a highly sought after player this winter, with the Mets being on the short list of many prognosticators’ potential suitors. Even after a down year at the plate, Lindor remains one of the most marketable players in the game and one of the top contributors on the field, both at his position specifically and overall.
The 27-year-old was the Indians’ first round pick (eighth overall) in the 2011 draft. He reached the Majors midway through the 2015 season and hit the ground running as expected, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting that season. He was an All-Star in each of the next four seasons, earning two Gold Gloves and two Silver Slugger awards in that span while garnering MVP votes each campaign. He had a down year in the pandemic-shortened 2020 slate, when he established career-worsts in all three triple slash categories with notable drop-offs in other offensive stats.
Lindor is in the final season of arbitration eligibility and is due to become a free agent after the season. He is expected to see a raise on his annual salary to somewhere between $17.5 and $21.5 million for the upcoming season (according to MLB Trade Rumors). Previous rumors had Lindor and the Indians in the range of $100 million apart in salary discussions in the past, which had put Lindor’s name on the trade market in each of the last two offseasons and may have affected his play last season.
Carrasco, 33, joined the Indians in a trade similar to the one which brought him to Cleveland in 2009. Back then, he was one of four prospects included by the Philadelphia Phillies to obtain Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco. Now, he is on the other side, a throw-in with the big star for a prospect package.
Carrasco earned an 88-73 record with the Indians over 12 MLB seasons with the club, including his lost 2012 year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Some early career inconsistencies led to him relocating to the bullpen, but the removal of the windup from his pre-pitch routine seemed to get him far more settled on the mound and more productive with his end results. He turned into a steady starter for the Tribe, winning 14 games in 2015, leading all of baseball with 18 in 2017, and adding 17 more in 2018. His 2019 season became a source of inspiration for baseball fans across the globe as he was able to return from early-season struggles that were linked to chronic myeloid leukemia in time for the team’s playoff push that September.
In 2020, he went 3-4 in 12 starts with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP with 82 strikeouts in 68 innings as the veteran arm in the starting rotation. Carrasco is due to make $12 million over each of the next two seasons and had a $14 million team option in his contract for 2023 with a $3 million buyout. He joins an intriguing starting rotation with the Mets, where he will work alongside Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard (when he returns from Tommy John), and young arm David Peterson.
The Indians add two young and affordable infield pieces in Gimenez and Rosario, who both are expected to factor into the 2021 lineup with their exact locations on the diamond yet to be determined.
Gimenez, 22, made his Major League debut last season for the Mets, playing second, short, and third for the club in 49 games with a steady .263/.333/.398 slash with three doubles, two triples, three homers, and 12 RBI. He also brings some speed to the base paths, where he was 8-for-9 in stole base attempts. Signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent back in 2015, he had reached his highest level in the minors in 2018 when he played for Double-A Binghamton. He remained with that club in 2019 and put in two seasons of work in the Arizona Fall League before jumping the Triple-A level in 2020 with minor league play postponed for the year. He worked almost exclusively as a shortstop in the minors, but saw a handful of opportunities at second base. His experience at third base in his professional career is limited to last season with the Mets.
Rosario, 25, joined the Mets in 2012 as an undrafted amateur free agent. Like Gimenez, the bulk of his career work has come at shortstop, where he has suited up consistently for the Mets over the last four years. He debuted in August of 2017 and has been a regularly on the lineup card since, appearing in 154 games in 2018, 157 in 2019, and 46 of 60 last year. In 403 career games, he has a MLB triple slash of .268/.302/.403 with 63 doubles, 20 triples, 32 homers, and 148 RBI. His best offensive season came in 2019, when he hit 30 doubles, 15 homers, and 72 RBI (all career bests), while also providing highs in batting average, on-base, and slugging. He stole a career-high 24 bases in 2018.
While both of those acquisitions would appear to factor in to the Indians’ middle infield vacancies or a utility role, the other two new faces for the franchise have some time to spend on the farm before the club will know where they fit in the long-term scheme of things.
Wolf, 20, was the Mets’ second round pick in the 2019 draft out of his Houston area high school. Instead of following his commitment to Texas A&M, he signed with the Mets and appeared in five games for the club’s rookie league affiliate in Florida that year, striking out 12 batters and issuing one walk in eight innings of work with a 3.38 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in that span. In his brief minor league work, he showcased an upper 90s fastball, a 12-6 curve, and a changeup that he may need to develop more. The Mets organization was focused on adding strength to his slim frame and moved his arm slot to aid in his development.
The 6’3”, 170 lb. right-hander landed in the number nine spot on MLB Pipeline for the Mets organization.
Greene, 19, was drafted by the Mets in the compensation round portion of the second round of the draft in 2020 out of Corona High School in California. Because of the global pandemic, Greene was not able to play professionally in 2020. He is a left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder, thought to be a center fielder by trade due to his speed. That portion of his skill set also affects his ability to impact the game on the bases as well, so his future professional development may be important to watch as the Cleveland organization continues to lack solid answers for their outfield puzzle both now and for the future.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images