On January 7, 2021, baseball's best SS was traded to the Mets in a deal that shocked the baseball world. Also included in the trade was SP Carlos Carrasco. The duo was dealt to the Mets in exchange for prospects Isaiah Greene and Josh Wolf, as well as Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario.
I'm not going to sit back and pretend that nothing happened on January 7th. Major League Baseball's best shortstop, Francisco Lindor, was traded in a deal that shocked the MLB world. What did Cleveland get in return? An average SS and a young, potential filled IF. But was it really worth it to lose baseball's best SS?
Cleveland had wanted to trade Lindor for a while. In fact, I wrote an article on it about a year ago but I never published it. Especially after a 2019 season where Cleveland missed the postseason, there were some rumors. In that article, I correctly suspected that Lindor would not be dealt in the 2019-2020 offseason. However, I thought that if Cleveland made the postseason in 2020, Cleveland would not deal Lindor. They made the Wild Card in 2020. So what happened?
First of all, we have to keep in mind that the MLB playoffs were expanded from 5 teams to 8 teams. That meant that reaching the postseason wouldn't be the best way to measure success. However, they would have been in a normal playoffs at the 4 seed. So why (and I feel like I'm asking this a lot) did Cleveland make such a bold move?
My best guess is to cut payroll. Lindor has a massive contract, and Carrasco has a relatively big contract. The haul from the Mets was a good one, as they received two prospects and an average SS, along with a breakout rookie. Amed Rosario (the average SS) will be Cleveland's SS next year, an obvious downgrade from the best SS in the MLB. However, Rosario has so much untapped potential that one could lay a railroad from Miami to Anchorage with all of that potential. Rosario was once the #5 prospect in the nation before a solid 2019 and a bad 2020.
Cleveland lost their Gold Glove 2B Cesar Hernandez to free agency, leaving a gap at 2B for Andres Gimenez. The question for Gimenez is if he can continue the production for last year, where he had a 1.1 WAR in 49 games, making 19 appearances at 2B and 23 appearances at SS. Let's also keep in mind that Gimenez was the #30 prospect and is only 22 years old.
Now that Cleveland has filled in their middle infield with this trade, it's time to recover from the damages pitching-wise. They lost their #2 SP in Carlos "Cookie" Carrasco, who had a 2.91 ERA in 12 GS. That makes it their second #2 to be traded in a span of about 5 months. First it was Mike Clevinger and now Carrasco. That leaves Zach Plesac to be the #2 and Aaron Civale to be the #3, with Triston McKenzie at the #4 and a wild card at #5. Candidates for the #5 are Adam Plutko and Cal Quantrill, although Quantrill isn't much of a starter.
Before we can get into the long term effect, let's look at the short term fallout. For starters, the biggest winners in this trade, besides the Mets, are the White Sox. The White Sox will benefit from Cleveland not being a serious contender, which will in turn boost the White Sox's chances of winning the AL Central. The Twins will also benefit for the same reason, but the Twins have lost more than they've gained in the 2020-2021 offseason which will benefit the White Sox who are on the rise.
This move takes out Cleveland's #5 and #6 WAR contributors, but we know that Lindor is much better than his 2020 season shows. Carrasco had a season "worse" than Zach Plesac, but WAR can sometimes be iffy. Cesar Hernandez and Carlos Santana were the #4 and #7 WAR contributors for Cleveland, so Cleveland loses their #4 through #7 WAR contributors. That takes out 5.4 WAR, which in a normal season would be 14.6 WAR. They also lose their closer, Brad Hand, who had 0.7 WAR which in a normal season would equate to 1.9 WAR. That means that Cleveland will have lost 16.5 (adjusted) WAR. That's not it. They also let Oliver Perez and Delino Deshields go, and they also traded Adam Cimber to the Marlins for quite literally nothing.
That batch of players alone is worth 0.7 WAR, which equates to 1.9 WAR. If we add that to the total, we get a final of 18.4 WAR. It's also worth noting is that Cleveland had 40.5 (adjusted) WAR in total in 2020. That means that Cleveland lost 45.4% of their WAR. That's not good.
Besides losing 45.4% of their total production, Cleveland lost their most marketable player. Don't tell me that Shane Bieber is more marketable because Bieber only pitches in one out of every five games. Lindor will excel on a newly contending Mets, so that's good for him, but it's an astronomical loss for Cleveland.
In 2020, Baseball America ranked Cleveland's farm system as the 19th best in the MLB, which is below average. That means that Cleveland won't have many good prospects to recover with.
I'm not going to give too much speculation as to whether Cleveland can recover, but I'll say one thing: it won't be easy. However, I do believe that Cleveland can do it. But if the end goal is the World Series, can they win the World Series with this core? We'll just have to wait and see.
Thanks for reading.