Indians team president seems to be pushing Francisco Lindor out the door

Francisco Lindor is the heart and soul (and gorgeous, beaming smile) of the Cleveland Indians. He’s just 25 but has lit up the field in each of his four seasons in the majors. Any team would love to have him. And it looks like in a few years, any team might be able to.

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Lindor has three more seasons until he hits free agency, but it seems like team president Chris Antonetti has serious doubts about keeping the star shortstop any longer. Antonetti answered 10 questions for Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com recently, and when Hoynes asked him whether the money the Indians are saving on payroll this offseason could be used to give Lindor a contract extension, Antonetti shut that down immediately.

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“No. They aren’t directly related.

“There are a variety of factors that go into those types of decisions (to offer a player an extension). Most importantly, we recognize that we are making a long-term commitment so we want to be sure that we are betting on the right type of person that will positively contribute on the field and in our clubhouse.”

While Antonetti never says Lindor’s name, the question was about giving Lindor an extension. And Antonetti responded by essentially questioning Lindor’s ability to positively contribute on and off the field.

Lindor has been an All-Star three times. He’s won two Silver Sluggers and one Gold Glove. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2015. He has a career .288/.350/.487 triple slash, and he was worth 7.6 wins according to Baseball Reference. He participated in MLB’s anti-bullying campaign, and is committed to making clubhouse culture welcoming to all. Lindor is one of the most dynamic, talented, and exciting players in baseball. So how can Antonetti doubt his ability to positively contribute to the team?

Francisco Lindor is the heart and soul of the Indians. (Getty Images)
Francisco Lindor is the heart and soul of the Indians. (Getty Images)

It could be related to the seven-year, $100 million extension that Lindor turned down in 2017. Here’s the rest of Antonetti’s answer about a possible Lindor extension:

“Beyond that, for a team and player to reach an agreement on a multi-year contract, both parties need to be motivated by the desire to make something work and find common ground.  Without that desire, talks never progress.”

It sure seems like Antonetti is implying that Lindor (and his asking price) is the reason why the two parties haven’t inked a contract extension.

Despite winning their third straight American League Central crown, the Indians have spent the offseason desperately cutting payroll, letting key players leave via free agency, and trading other players like Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso. Guys like Michael Brantley, Andrew Miller, Yan Gomes, Cody Allen and Lonnie Chisenhall are all gone. Antonetti said during the interview that the Indians don’t plan to use free agency to replace any of those players, but instead will incorporate players from the minors — even though their minor league system is one of the lowest-ranked in baseball.

It doesn’t seem like Indians fans have much to look forward to in the coming years beyond more cuts, no free agents, and the eventual departure of the face of the franchise. If this is what happens to successful teams, it’s hard to blame fans for finding another sport to care about.

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