This Cardinals-Indians trade for Francisco Lindor makes sense

As the Cleveland Indians seem set to trade Francisco Lindor this offseason, could the St. Louis Cardinals make a good enough offer to get him?

A four-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glover before his 27th birthday, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is one of the best players in baseball. He is also headed for free agency after the 2021 season, and Indians owner Paul Dolan got way ahead of things back in March of 2019.

“Enjoy him,” Dolan told Indians fans. “We control him for three more years. Enjoy him and then we’ll see what happens.”

If 2020 were a normal season, Lindor would have made $17.5 million on one-year deal. In his last year of arbitration eligibility, even in a suppressed economic situation for baseball, a push toward $20 million for 2021 feels certain. MLB Trade Rumors has projected Lindor to make between $17.5 and $21.5 million next season.

So there would be a bit of sweepstakes to trade for Lindor, akin to the Mookie Betts trade speculation last offseason. Many teams can make case to try and get Lindor, even it means moving their current shortstop to another position.

R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports included the St. Louis Cardinals on a list of possible suitors for Lindor. But could they make a good enough offer to get him?

What a Cardinals deal for Francisco Lindor could look like

The Cardinals have a solid shortstop in Paul DeJong, and he’s under contract through at least 2023 with club options for 2024 and 2025. He could move to second base to accommodate Lindor, with the domino there likely not picking up Kolten Wong’s $12.5 million option for next year. Picking up Wong’s option and flipping him to the Indians for Lindor might also be an option.

The Cardinals could deal from pitching or outfield depth. MLB.com ranked their farm system 18th in baseball heading into and during the 2020 season, with three top-100 prospects and a 2020 draft class that may bring more that are ranked that highly heading into 2021.

Here’s how the Cardinals could shape a good offer for Lindor.

Cardinals Get
SS Francisco Lindor
Indians Get
SS Paul DeJong
OF Dylan Carlson
RHP Angel Rondon

I say the Cardinals draw a line at their top prospect third baseman (Nolan Gorman, MLB.com’s 50th-ranked prospect this year), and Yadier Molina’s potential successor behind the plate (Ivan Herrera). Outfielder Tyler O’Neill could be dangled in a deal for Lindor, as could young left-handers Matthew Liberatore (the prominent return in what’s now known as the Randy Arozarena trade) and Zack Thompson.

The Cardinals will have plenty of competition to get Lindor, if they seriously entertain the possibility. They can offer a combination of capable major league talent and young prospects, which may give them an edge. The idea of sending Lindor to the National League may appeal to the Indians too.