What the Seattle Mariners can offer for Francisco Lindor

CLEVELAND, OHIO - MAY 04: Francisco Lindor #12 of the Cleveland Indians taunts Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Seattle Mariners after Encarnacion was called out at first on review to end the top of the sixth inning at Progressive Field on May 04, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - MAY 04: Francisco Lindor #12 of the Cleveland Indians taunts Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Seattle Mariners after Encarnacion was called out at first on review to end the top of the sixth inning at Progressive Field on May 04, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians are apparently tired of playing for division titles and are reportedly taking offers for their best player, Francisco Lindor. What could the Mariners offer?

Alright, let’s get this out of the way right now: the Seattle Mariners are not trading for Francisco Lindor. Like it or not, that is the reality of the situation. But this is the MLB Hot Stove. We don’t let facts get in the way of a good time.

So today, we are going to try and identify a few offers that could land Lindor in Seattle, if such a thing actually made sense. But before we do, let’s throw some cold water on the discussion and tell you why it won’t happen.

Several teams are expected to make serious offers to Cleveland for Lindor. Amongst the interested parties are New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. And here comes the good news in this bit of a reality check: the Mariners could absolutely make a competitive offer for Lindor. 

They have the pieces but lack the timeline to acquire the MVP candidate. Lindor has just 2-years of club control remaining and the Mariners see themselves as at least 1 full year away. So trading for Lindor is really trading for a shot in 2021 and then likely watching him leave in free agency.

If you could lock down Lindor on an extension past 2021, things would change quickly, but Lindor will cash in and have no shortage of suitors in 2-years, so why sign an extension with an organization that you aren’t yet familiar with?

Unfortunately, the Mariners are about a year too far behind to seriously consider such a move. Seattle would be forced to accelerate its timeline since 2020 would then carry significant weight. They just won’t be willing to do that and it is justified in the long-term.

But now that we have the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s dream a little bit. Since Cleveland is trading Lindor in this scenario and has actually traded away Kluber in real life, it would be fair to assume they are entering a rebuilding mode.

But in reality, in the right deal, Cleveland could still be fairly competitive in 2020 if they get MLB help in a Lindor trade. So we actually need 2 Lindor offers; one for a full rebuild, and one for a half rebuild.

Let’s start with the partial rebuild. If the Indians are hoping to be competitive in 2020, they’ll need a replacement shortstop. For the Mariners, this means parting ways with 5 years of J.P. Crawford.

Now teams like the Mets and Dodgers can offer Ahmed Rosario and Gavin Lux or Corey Seager respectively, which is a huge edge over Seattle. So in order to compete with those package starters, Seattle would need to part with another significant MLB player. Perhaps somebody like Mitch Haniger?

Haniger’s bat would help replace the loss of Lindor and Crawford’s defense would help mitigate the defensive loss. Combined, the two players do not equal Lindor, but they do help taper off some of the loss, especially if Haniger returns to his 2018 form.

Because they need to add more, they’ll still have to dip into their farm system. But Seattle is highly unlikely to be willing to give up Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, or Logan Gilbert along with Crawford and Haniger, so they’ll need to dip into the second tier.

Assuming Cleveland would like as much immediate help as possible, names like Jake Fraley, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn probably make the most sense. We will assume they like want the player with the highest upside who, in my opinion, is Dunn.

So a package of Crawford, Haniger, and Dunn for Lindor and that probably isn’t enough. The Mariners are better off standing pat. You may improve in 2020 and 2021, but you’re going to take a hit in 2022 and beyond, unless you trade Lindor at a loss.

Now, if the MLB pieces offer didn’t make a lot of sense, imagine how bad the prospect package would be to acquire a player who doesn’t help you in your competitive window. Since you aren’t parting ways with MLB talent, Cleveland is going to demand at least one of Kelenic, Gilbert, or Rodriguez, and possibly 2 of them.

Let’s go best-case scenario and say Cleveland is willing to take one. So you start with one of your big 3. Now, in order to beat out another team, you’ll likely need to add somebody from the second tier, like Dunn, Sheffield, or Kirby. And now, you need a solid 3rd and probably an interesting 4th to get things done.

Let’s assume Cleveland wants the closer player and settles for Fraley. So, at minimum, you’re building a package around one of Kelenic/Gilbert/Rodriguez, one of Kirby/Dunn/Sheffield, one of Fraley/Lewis, and probably one of Noelvi Marte or Sam Carlson.

Would you be willing to lose 24 years of MLB service time between Kelenic, Kirby, Fraley, and Marte for 2-years of Francisco Lindor? Especially when there is almost no chance you’ll be a world series contender in that time frame? I sincerely hope the answer is no.

So remember this the next time somebody tries to tell you the Mariners are fools for not attempting to acquire elite players in their prime. Would it be exciting? Yes. Would it be wise? Almost certainly not.

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We all want the Mariners to make the playoffs ASAP. But trying to force an appearance before the foundation is built is a recipe for disaster. Of course, we would celebrate if Lindor was a Mariner. But in the long run, it would do more harm than good.