Lindor endgame coming soon?
Donaldson, a former AL MVP who turned 34 earlier this offseason, is fresh off an impressive bounce-back season with the Braves. In 155 games with Atlanta, Donaldson put up a 127 OPS+ with 37 home runs. He also logged almost 1,300 defensive innings at the hot corner and according to advanced defensive metrics got back to being a force with the glove. It’s entirely possible that a four-year deal would extend into his deep decline phase, but Donaldon’s 2019 successes suggest he’d provide more than enough value on the front end of such a contract to make up for anything that happened after.
That certainly sounds like the Indians want to pick a lane with Lindor and do so before Christmas. It’s worth noting of course that such situations are fluid until they’re resolved for good and all, and if the Indians make it to Monday without moving Lindor that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s sticking in Cleveland. At the very least, they could see how the first half of the 2020 season goes and perhaps revisit Lindor talks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. It’s entirely possible, though, that Lindor gets moved in a matter of days. As Rosenthal notes, the Reds, Dodgers and Padres have been linked most strongly to Lindor.
As you’re no doubt aware, it’s already been a frenzied offseason in Major League Baseball. As we head toward the holidays, though, a number of big free agent and trade targets remain in play. To get you up to speed on what’s buzzing for Friday, we’re here to run down the latest rumors. Let’s jump in.
The Twins announced that they’ve signed veteran right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard to a one-year contract on Friday. According to multiple reports, the deal will be worth .75 million.
Clippard, 34, pitched in 53 games for the Indians last season, and over that span he posted a 2.90 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 15 walks in 62 innings. For his career, he owns an ERA+ of 131 across parts of 13 seasons.
Twins, Nats most motivated on Donaldson
The Indians have already traded away ace right-hander Corey Kluber this winter, and star shortstop Francisco Lindor may be the next to get shipped off, as Cleveland ownership continues to operate with no perceptible level of commitment to on-field success. On that front, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic addressed the percolating Lindor rumors during a recent appearance on MLB Network. Here’s the key takeaway: As for the man himself, he’s coveted with good reason. Lindor, 26, is a plus glove at the most premium position on the diamond, and for his career he’s averaged 29 home runs and 40 doubles per 162 games played. All of that is in addition to his speed on the bases and highly marketable personality. Even with a substantial arbitration raise over his .85 million salary for 2019, he’s going to be underpaid. What adds to his immense trade value is that Lindor isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season.
The champion Nationals are of course looking to replace franchise third baseman Anthony Rendon, who recently signed with the Angels. The Twins, meantime, would probably accommodate Donaldson by shifting Miguel Sano to first base. Donaldson obviously would be a huge get for either team.
Astros bring back Maldonado
The Astros have brought back catcher Martin Maldonado on a two-year deal worth million, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. Though Maldonado isn’t much of a hitter — he’s posted a 73 OPS+ over the last three seasons — he is regarded as a quality defender.
Robinson Chirinos, who spent last season as Houston’s primary backstop, remains a free agent. As of now, the Astros would likely pair Maldonado with either Garrett Stubbs or Dustin Garneau.
Twins sign Clippard
Veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson is widely considered to be the best free agent left on the board, and a reading of the current tea leaves suggests he may land somewhere soon. On that front, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic in his latest must-read notes column reports that the Nationals and Twins are believed to be willing to go four years with Donaldson, which should make them the dual favorites to land him.
With Lindor, the Indians will very likely contend in the weak AL Central. Without him, they likely won’t, and instead he’d be moving the needle in some other division race.