Grading the short and long-term outlook of the Francisco Lindor trade

With one swift and crisp January transaction, the MLB landscape significantly shifted. 

After the Cleveland Indians and New York Mets both officially announced the deal Jan. 7, the outlook of both franchises changed with the drop of a pen and a formal social media announcement post by both teams.  

For the Mets, it was all about making an offseason statement, as new ownership under Steve Cohen wanted to vault the team back into the National League postseason conversation. For Cleveland, it was about parting with a star in order to bring in controllable players and stabilize payroll. 

The question regarding the overall short and long-term grades both clubs came out with, however, has been all the rage among baseball fans in the ensuing days of the trade’s aftermath. So, who came out better? What can both teams expect from their newly acquired players? 

Well, that is what this article is for (surprise, surprise). Without further ado, here is the outlook and grade of the blockbuster trade from both perspectives. 

Date of trade: Jan. 7 

Teams involved: Cleveland Indians and New York Mets 

Cleveland receives: INF Andres Gimenez, INF Amed Rosario, OF Isaiah Greene, RHP Josh Wolf

New York receives: RHP Carlos Carrasco, SS Francisco Lindor

Let’s begin by looking at this from New York’s perspective. Before going any further, here is the obvious take – the Mets scooped up a surefire superstar in the switch-hitting 27-year-old Lindor, who just so happens to be in his prime and also plays the premier infield position.

Now, at first glance, Lindor’s 2020 season was not too eye-popping. After all, a .258/.335/.415 slash line in 60 games played with an extremely average .750 on-base plus slugging (OPS) and 100 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) was not something to boast about. In other words, these numbers suggested he was creating runs, getting on base and hitting for power at pretty average rates, even when park adjusted. What is missed, however, was the fact that Lindor’s 41.1 Hard Hit Percentage (HardHit%) during the shortened 2020 season was the highest of his career (his previous career-high was 40.8% during the 2019 season). What is more significantly glossed over, however, is Lindor’s plate prowess from 2015-19. Among 52 qualified shortstops spanning from the 2015-19 season, Lindor’s 478 runs scored ranked first and his 130 home runs ranked second, while his 835 hits, 260 walks, 93 stolen bases and 119 wRC+ all ranked in the top five as well (his .840 OPS ranked sixth). And to think, nothing was mentioned about his sturdy, Gold Glove-caliber defense. 

Then, there is Carrasco, who, in any other trade, would be seen as a marquee headliner, but is instead more of a supplementary piece shrouded by the sheer star power of Lindor.

In 68 innings pitched (12 games started) during the 2020 season, the 33-year-old righty possessed a 2.91 ERA with a 3.59 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), suggesting that, while not as dominant as his sub-3.00 ERA would suggest, he was still a top-flight pitcher. To further prove this, his 10.85 K/9 (a career-high) ranked 12th among 40 qualified pitchers during the 2020 season. 

You can rejoice if you are a Mets fan. The short-term outlook of this trade looks fantastic, as the player and prospect capital given up to net both players was not extremely severe when looking at the entire picture (more on the players and prospects given up in a minute). Right away, Lindor slots in as a top-of-the-order bat who brings legitimate five-tool talents to a lineup starving for a consistent bridge to their sluggers, including that of Pete Alonso. Carrasco, meanwhile, brings a middle-of-the-rotation floor with potential for a top-of-the-rotation ceiling to a rotation already spearheaded by Jacob deGrom. 

Short-term, this is a slam dunk for New York. Long-term, however, is to be determined – Lindor is a free agent at the end of the 2021 campaign, and Carrasco last pitched 190 or more innings in 2018 (192.0). If Lindor is not locked up to a long-term extension, New York could potentially reap the benefits of the trade for only one year at best (signing Lindor to an extension right away after the trade was made would have been a dream come true for any Mets’ fan out there), and Carrasco is not getting any younger. Should New York continue to supplement the roster, extend Lindor and reinforce the rotation should Carrasco’s age and health concerns become a problem, there is no issue. If not, well, perhaps this trade will be looked at in a slightly different light. 

Short-term grade: A+ 

Long-term grade: currently B, potentially A

Cleveland, it is your turn, now.

The lack of a blue-chip player for Cleveland in the trade return does not mean they went home completely empty-handed. If their previous trades suggest anything (especially in regard to the Mike Clevinger deal completed with San Diego at the trade deadline last season), Cleveland received quantity that, if developed correctly, can transform into productive (not to mention cost efficient) players.

When looking at Gimenez and Rosario, this quantity philosophy is ever apparent. Specifically, both players bring defensive upside and flexibility (Gimenez played second base, shortstop and third base during his 2020 rookie year, while Rosario has primarily stuck at shortstop with select outfield experience). A change of scenery, along with more opportunities for playing time with Lindor no longer being part of the team, can potentially untap more productivity with the lumber from both players (Gimenez possessed a .732 OPS during his rookie year, while Rosario has a career .705 OPS in four MLB seasons). Whatever the weather, Cleveland will bide their time with the duo, as they have yet to hit pre-arbitration (Gimenez) or are in the early stages of it (Rosario). 

Quantity from the deal did not solely come from major league players, but prospects as well. Wolf and Greene, two top-10 prospects in the Mets’ farm (ninth and 10th, respectively), immediately slot into the top 20 of a deeper Cleveland pipeline (12th and 16th, respectively). Wolf brings two+ pitches in a high velocity fastball and 12-6 curveball with the opportunity to develop a changeup, in addition to above average control. Greene, a 2020 second-round compensatory pick, brings a plethora of raw tools, with his most notable one coming from the speed department (his speed tool grades as a 65 on a scale of 80, per MLB Pipeline). 

Quantity is quantity. No one is disputing this, nor is anyone contradicting the likelihood of Cleveland developing their newly-acquired players into something more than they would have been in Queens. However, while quantity serves a purpose, quality does too and trading away a superstar in Lindor for raw prospects and major league projects makes the deal come off more as a salary release than a legitimate player package. 

Whether looking at this from a short-term or long-term perspective leads to a similar conclusion. While the quartet of players might turn heads in due time, this is more of a deal with a steady, but low, floor as opposed to a deal with an extremely high ceiling. These deals serve a purpose, but even still, one would expect Cleveland to aim for the stars more when dangling a star at the end of the trading pole. 

Short-term grade: C-

Long-term grade: currently C-, potentially B-

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