Since there’s not much going on in Cubdom and doesn’t figure to be for quite some time, so I figured I might as well cover two interesting tidbits from around the league. The first of those has been inevitable for quite some time, which is that the Cleveland Indians shopping shortstop Francisco Lindor as he heads into his final year of club control.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is reporting that the club intends to trade its best player by Opening Day, which will help to restock the farm and cut his projected $21 million salary. I know it’s a running joke that Nightengale’s reporting can be faulty, but this is something we’ve all been expecting for a while.
Cleveland, strapped for money, intend to trade All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor by opening day, several rival teams have been informed. Lindor earned $17.5 million last season and is projected to earn about $21 million in salary arbitration in his final year before free agency
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 5, 2020
Some parallels could be drawn to the Orioles’ earliest “attempts” to move Manny Machado back in 2018, but that organization is a ham-handed clustermug and had to wait till the deadline to make it work. Cleveland has better leadership, or at least more competent ownership, and has shown several times over the past two seasons or more that they’re perfectly willing to swing trades for their best players.
The big wrinkle here is that many other teams will also be looking to dump salary, so it’s hard to judge what kind of demand there will really be. Then there’s the limited control, though that might actually be more amenable to some teams given the uncertainty over how long this whole financial crunch — as always, I like to acknowledge that it’s as real as MLB wants to act like it is — will last. Then you’ve got the Mets, who could just be the vacuum that sucks up all the best players.
Pivoting a little on the same ideas of financial uncertainty and the questions about the long-term health of the sport brings us to the second item I’d like to discuss, albeit briefly. Longtime executive Dave Dombrowski has been working with Music City Baseball, LLC to bring an MLB expansion team to Nashville and he recently reaffirmed his commitment to that cause in an interview with Ken Rosenthal ($).
“I’m staying in Nashville,” Dombrowski said. “[I made]…a commitment when I moved here that as we continue to pursue a new team — expansion, relocation, or if it goes nowhere — that I would stay here with them.”
You may be wondering why this is at all relevant, and I’ll admit that it might not be in the end. However, Dombrowski has experienced a great deal of success, most recently as the GM of the last Red Sox World Series team, and was thought to be a candidate for the Angels’ opening(s). For him to remain with a group that won’t have a team until 2022 at the very earliest says a lot about the viability of his expansion efforts and of Major League Baseball in general.
Smart people don’t willingly enter into projects they believe will lose money, so, contrary to what owners keep repeating, you have to think Dombrowski knows these teams are making money. What’s more, he’s got to feel pretty good about the chances of landing a team. Those things go hand in hand and that grip may be firmer than ever with the league saddled by a lot more debt than before after borrowing to continue operations this past season.
Value doesn’t mean liquidity, so a lot of owners have leveraged themselves pretty heavily when it comes to buying their own teams and developing around their ballparks. The quickest way to get a massive influx of cash without having to take out a loan is by collecting franchise fees from new teams, which seems more realistic than ever in the current environment.
We’ll see where this goes, but I would not be surprised in the least to see MLB get into some very serious talks about adding two more teams within the next 2-3 years.