It’ll be a little while before Francisco Lindor hits free agency, but Cleveland Indians owner Paul Dolan has warned fans to enjoy the young star while they can.
It’s fictional, but the movie Major League had the Cleveland Indians’ owner looking to build a losing team. In Major League II, a good player was essentially sold due to financial considerations. But it’s playing out somehow in real life now, based on what Indians’ owner Paul Dolan said about shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Lindor has become one of the best young players in baseball, with back-to-back 30-plus homer seasons and a Gold Glove the year before that. In 2018, he hit 38 home runs with 92 RBI, 129 runs scored and 25 bases stolen bases while making $623,200. He got a rightful bump to $10.85 million for this year via arbitration, with two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining.
Talking to The Athletic about the Indians’ payroll strategy, and Lindor a little more specifically, Dolan warned fans about the young star’s long-term future in Cleveland.
"Enjoy him,” Dolan told Indians fans. “We control him for three more years. Enjoy him and then we’ll see what happens."
Lindor is in line for salary bumps each of the next two winters, before hitting free agency after the 2021 season. The Indians cleared a bit of payroll from last season, and otherwise rested on their laurels this offseason as the favorite to win a weak AL Central. There’s a case to be all-in for this year, rather than consider trading top of the rotation aces Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer as has been rumored.
But at 25 years old, Lindor is a different case as a long-term building block for the Indians. The price on a contract extension for him will only rise, barring a catastrophic injury, with the five-year, $100 million deal Alex Bregman just got as a comp right now. Otherwise, a deal more toward the one Machado got from the Padres could be coming when Lindor finally hits free agency.
If things really do play out year-to-year with Lindor over the next couple years, there will be teams ready to pay big for a shortstop that will still only turn 28 right around the time he hits the market (Nov. 14, 2021). Beyond that, it’s a mistake for anyone associated with the Indians to essentially declare Lindor will be gone so far before he actually will be.