It’s officially zero hour for the Cleveland Indians and Francisco Lindor.
At least, that’s what the latest reports indicate. Per Ken Rosenthal, the Indians have told any team interested in trading for their superstar shortstop to provide their best and final offer by this weekend. From there, Cleveland will then assess and determine the next steps of this saga.
So, for all intents and purposes, the Tribe’s front office is now hard at work, going over all submitted proposals in order to make a final call on Lindor. In setting this deadline, the Indians can use the weekend to finally know for sure whether or not they’ll be moving forward with their franchise player in 2020 and proceed accordingly.
Essentially, over the next 24 hours, the team will finally receive some closure with its biggest offseason narrative.
That may have been their intention, but there’s a very good chance this plan becomes far more complicated than Cleveland anticipated.
In a sense, the Indians are taking a smart approach here. They need to know if Lindor will be in the clubhouse this season, as leaving this situation in limbo much longer only prevents them from making other important offseason decisions.
So, if they believe all interested teams have now officially submitted their best offers, then they know what they can get for Lindor this winter. Cleveland can decide if someone has given a proposal which is impossible to refuse.
If this hasn’t occurred, great, conversation over. The Indians can then feel free to start working on roster upgrades around Lindor while he’s still in town.
Of course, this is under the assumption all interested teams are aligned with this approach. Cleveland may have set a deadline for Lindor offers, but is every interested club going to comply?
Francisco Lindor is a superstar. Anyone submitting a trade offer for him isn’t doing so because he’d be a nice roster addition, but instead because he’d instantly become the face of any franchise he joins.
Knowing that, what are the Indians going to do if someone calls them in January with a better offer than what was submitted by their imposed deadline?
More importantly, what if that call occurs after Cleveland has moved forward with the assumption Lindor is staying put?
Sure, the Tribe’s initial instinct may be to turn it down, to say “the deadline has passed, he’s no longer available.”
However, can Cleveland do this if, say, the Los Angeles Dodgers were to finally add star prospect Gavin Lux to their offer? Would the team really shut the door on something like that simply because it was proposed after this weekend’s deadline? Would the Indians instead reverse course, scrapping their 2020 plans with Lindor and buckling under the temptation to get top value?
Enforcing a proposal deadline is an understandable approach for the Tribe to take. As you can see, though, said strategy is flawed.
Lindor is on borrowed time in Cleveland. The Indians know this, and so does every other team in the league. As a result, this deadline they’ve set is arbitrary, no matter how much they insist otherwise.
That someone of his talent is available all but ensures not every team in pursuit is going to respect Cleveland’s wishes to submit one final offer of the offseason. It’s tough to believe all interested clubs are going to get turned down this weekend and think “oh well, we tried, let’s call them again in July.”
Essentially, the Indians see the next couple days as a chance to get closure they very badly need, but it’s far-fetched to think this will actually occur.
Of course, there's always a chance this is just another bluff, yet another attempt to scare teams into ponying up a can't-miss offer. After all, this proposal deadline is occurring just a week after we heard reports that Cleveland's odds of dealing Lindor had "greatly diminished."
Until proven otherwise, I’m led to believe that’s exactly what this is. That the Indians are trying to close the door on Lindor trade talks, but doing so with a wink and a nudge.
On paper, the idea of establishing a closing date for trade proposals makes sense. However, anyone who wants Lindor badly enough isn’t going to stop calling the Tribe after this weekend.
As a result, despite hoping to finally move forward one way or another, the Indians may instead be stuck at this offseason fork in the road a little longer than they planned.