Cleveland Indians fans have had to see arguably the brightest star in baseball leave their organization when they traded Francisco Lindor last week for a package of prospects. The Indians are just five seasons from being in the World Series and now are looking at a complete rebuild. The Indians have lost an all-star team worth of talent over the last five years. Lindor is the top of the list that also includes Carlos Carrasco, Andrew Miller, Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Santana, Mike Clevinger and Yandy Diaz. Cleveland finds themselves behind Minnesota and Chicago in the central division and likely will not overtake them for a few years. While the Indians have given up a lot of stars they have been able to build a young group of players as well as some financial flexibility to lock up their young talent.
In 2020 the Indians farm system vaulted up to rank #12 overall according to ESPN and Baseball America. Cleveland has loaded itself with young talent. Of the Indians top ten prospects seven of them are 20 or younger (8 assuming you remove Tristan Mckenzie). Cleveland’s top prospect Nolan Jones should see MLB time this year. #2 ranked prospect Tyler Freeman is still a few years away but the addition of two major league ready shortstops in the trade with the Mets. The trade with the Mets allows the Indians to allow Freeman time to continue to develop. The Indians also have their catcher of the future in Bo Naylor. Naylor will play behind Robeto Perez in 2021, but his time will come very soon depending on the succes of the Indians leading into the trade deadline this summer. Cleveland unloaded most of their salary in order to reload for the future and build their team from within similarly to the way they did it leading into the 2016 system.
Cleveland has built up a great amount of roster flexibility as they watch their prospects continue to grow. Jose Ramirez currently is the highest paid Indian at $9 million per year. Over the next two seasons Ramirez is owed $26 million over the next two years but has a team buyout option of just $2 million. Ramirez is just 28 years old heading into 2021 and the decision on his future could strictly come down to where the Indians are in the development of Nolan Jones, who grades out as primarily a 3rd baseman. The financial situation in Cleveland is ideal for Cy Young winner Shane Bieber to get locked down in the near future as he is just now becoming arbitration eligible. Bieber along with fellow pitchers Adam Plutko, Tristan McKenzie, Zac Plesac, Aaron Civale, Cal Quantril and Logan Allen are the rotation pieces of right now and the future as they are all under the age of 30 and under team control for most of the foreseeable future.
Cleveland fans will find it tough to see the bright side to trading away their best player. Ultimately if you just look at the pieces you have to consider it a win for the New York Mets, While the Mets got the best two players of the trade Cleveland was able to grab two highly rated prospects, most notably pitcher Josh Wolf who will find himself as a top ten prospect in the Indians system at some point in 2021. They also got Isiah Greene, an outfielder they had been targeting since the draft last year. Both players are projected to be future standouts in their system. Along with the prospects the Indians were able to get major league ready talent in Ahmed Rosario and last year’s breakout player Andres Gimenez. Neither are on the level of Lindor but they will be solid pieces for a rebuilding team. Gimenez grades out as a future gold glover at the position and ranks in the top 93rd percentile in speed which can at least make hima stolen base threat.
The Indians are a small market team that has to work with what their financials allow. There will be some tough years ahead of the tribe but their pitching staff should be a highlight for a while and their farm system continues to grow. The prospects they have picked up in the trades of Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Francisco Lindor are guys that fit their needs. If could be a lot worse in Cleveland, just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.