The rumor of choice today in the Cincinnati Reds world is the one that involves Cleveland Indians 4-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor. It was reported this morning by Mark Feinsand of MLB.com that the Reds are the latest team to engage with Cleveland about trade talks for the infielder.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network chimed in about 90-minutes later that the Indians are said to like Nick Senzel very much. He noted that he hadn’t heard of much talk between the two teams, though.
The Reds, in a trade that would bring in Francisco Lindor, would certain be yet another signal that they are going for it in 2020. When they traded with Cleveland and San Diego last July to acquire Trevor Bauer, who is a free agent after the 2020 season, it was the first signal that they were indeed pushing their chips forward. That begs the question, though, would they trade their starting center fielder who has six years of team control remaining, and is a former top 10 prospect as recently as May of 2019, in a deal for two years of an MVP caliber player?
That’s a much tougher question to answer than “should the Reds trade from the future for the now”, because Nick Senzel is a part of the now. He didn’t burst onto the scene and tear the league apart, but he was roughly a league average player as a rookie while playing a position on the field that was brand new to him – and there were long stretches where he was an above-average hitter. In the final 25 games of the season he hit just .160/.241/.293, which drug down his season line quite a bit. Prior to that, in the first 79 games of the year he was hitting better than the league average, posting a line of .280/.334/.460. One has to wonder how long the shoulder had been bother him before the injury ended his season after the first week of September.
There’s not been much out there about what kind of package it would take to acquire Francisco Lindor. Rumors with the Dodgers indicated it would probably require their top prospect Gavin Lux. The 21-year-old destroyed the minors in 2019, hitting .347/.421/.607 between Double-A and Triple-A this season. In 49 games in Triple-A he hit .392/.478/.719. The Dodgers called him up in September where he hit .240/.305/.400 in 23 games.
Lux, at least according to Baseball America, is rated as the 6th best prospect in baseball right now. Nick Senzel was rated similarly when the year began. Of course, 2019 was played, and Senzel is recovering from shoulder surgery. There’s also the difference in the positions that they play. Senzel can play third, second, or in the outfield. Lux, however, can play shortstop. He could be a direct replacement for Lindor, while Senzel wouldn’t fill that specific need for Cleveland.
The Dodgers haven’t taken the deal, presumably because they believe that Gavin Lux is too much to give up in the deal. Or maybe the rumors aren’t true at all. But let’s assume for a minute that they are. If Lux is too much to give up, does that mean that Nick Senzel is, too?
Your mileage may vary on that answer. And I’ll leave it up to you to decide. But let’s keep traveling down this hypothetical road and say that yes, the Reds think that Senzel is too much to give up because going for it requires a center fielder and he’s the only one they have that they are comfortable with playing every day – even if they get Lindor.
That probably means that Cincinnati would have to try and build a trade package around top prospects, and maybe some Major Leaguers. There’s an interesting website tool to play around with when it comes to trades over at Baseball Trade Value Simulator. The details aren’t entirely spelled out as to how they come up with their trade values, but they do give a little insight into the stuff they use. It’s certainly not going to be perfect – what is? – but playing around with it gives you some idea of what it might take to get a deal accomplished.
Going through the farm system and the Major League roster, here’s what they list as the “value” for the following players:
You can take that for what you will, and disagree if you want to on some of them (I certainly do). But they also list Francisco Lindor’s value at 63.4. Based on their valuations, a swap of Lindor for Senzel straight up would slightly favor Cleveland. But assuming that the Reds aren’t willing to do that, that’s where things get a bit more interesting in what kind of package that Cincinnati may have to try to put together to get a deal done.
Any three players on the list for the Reds, not including Nick Senzel, would make the “math” work on a deal for Francisco Lindor. Of course, we can’t just do it like that because that’s not how things work in the real world. Team needs matter, too. And they matter on both sides of the equation.
Would the Indians accept a package of Nick Lodolo, Tyler Mahle, and Jesse Winker? What about one of Jonathan India, Tyler Mahle, and Amir Garrett? Would they be interested in Tyler Stephenson, Jesse Winker, and Jonathan India?
As noted, the simulator is just that – a simulator. The exact formula they use isn’t out there, and while it seems like it could spit out some realistic options, I’ve seen trades that it says are acceptable that simply can’t jive with reality, too. If the Reds are going to play in the Francisco Lindor sweepstakes it’s going to take some real talent. Maybe it all comes from the farm system. Perhaps there’s a mix of prospects and Major Leaguers. But it’s probably going to be expensive.