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There's always so much going on in Northeast Ohio sports, much more than what can fit in our regular Wednesday conversations with Cleveland Plain Dealer sports writer Terry Pluto. Consider it overtime or extra innings.  This is the place to check out Amanda Rabinowitz's ongoing conversations with Terry that are just too good to miss!

Trading Lindor Gives The Indians Their Biggest Challenge to Keep Winning

Francisco Lindor
Keith Allison
Wikimedia Commons
Francisco Lindor found himself on the move with Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets in a blockbuster trade last week.

An era has come to an end as the Cleveland Indians this past week traded star shortstop Francisco Lindorand starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets in exchange for four players.

WKSU's sports commentator Terry Pluto breaks down the impact of losing Lindor and Carrasco, what the Indians are getting, and the team still having an expectation to win.

Tough to gauge the trade
With the trade market limited by an upcoming free agency class of star shortstops, lack of team control for Lindor, and the pandemic seeing some big spenders on the sidelines, Pluto says there was no way Cleveland could extract a fair price.

"The problem is, if you were doing it in a fantasy league, it's terrible. There's no way you're going to get equal value. Baseball is hard to judge because look at it like it's the other sports," Pluto said.

MLB doesn't have any form of a salary cap, unlike the NBA, NFL and NHL. Observers wonder why teams can't keep players like Lindor or make trades more equitable.

"The Indians front office is pretty good at making these trades. Hopefully they'll be good again. It's a boring answer, but we've been through so many of these deals that that's where I end up landing most of the time," he said.

Money issues
The Indians were among the hardest hit clubs in terms of the financial losses they sustained in the pandemic-shortened season. It got to the point where All-Star closer Brad Hand was put on waivers in hopes that another team would take his $10 million club option off their hands.

"The team has big money problems. President Chris Antonettisaid as much. He said they had borrowed money. And then he also said they were cutting payroll well before the pandemic," Pluto said.

The World Series runners-up, the Tampa Bay Rays, saw the departure of Charlie Morton, whose $15 million option was declined and Cy Young winner Blake Snell traded to San Diego. Both were key to the Rays making it to the Fall Classic and ended up as cost-cutting casualties.

"That tells you right there how messed up this situation is, but this is how these teams like Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Cleveland, that's how they operate," Pluto said.

The returning package
Four players are coming to Cleveland, with shortstop Andres Gimenez being the headliner along with former top 10 overall infield prospect Amed Rosario.

"Gimenez can be their starting shortstop for several years. They feel really, really confident about him, especially defensively. Rosario is a guy who has not played second base, but they think he can. A big issue with him is he strikes out a lot, doesn't walk at all," Pluto said.

Despite Rosario's track record, both he and Gimenez are both 25 or younger. In the case of Rosario, there's still time to turn his stock around.

Why was Carrasco included?
Carrasco is the other piece going to New York along with Lindor. Carrasco is signed through 2023 with a club option and dumping his salary with the Mets wanting him, especially if Lindor walks away after 2021.

"The Indians discovered that the market for Carlos Carrasco was not that high. He's 34, and let's face it, he had leukemia in 2019. He's made a phenomenal comeback, but if you're looking at it from a cold, hard perspective, of how much do I really want to trade for a 34 year-old pitcher who missed most of 2019 with Leukemia?" Pluto said.

The payroll and winning in Cleveland
With Lindor and Carrasco now off the books, Antonetti has said the team will reinvest some of the money back into the roster. How much is uncertain.

For Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff, both have had opportunities to leave Cleveland in recent years, but have stayed put.

"Chernoff was recently offered a chance to go run the New York Mets. They don't leave! These guys are driven to win. The one thing they didn't do, which is a huge setback for them, 2016 you had a chance to win the World Series and you didn't," Pluto said.

However, over the last eight years, the team has had a winning season, making the postseason five times in that span.

"It's not like they're saying, 'Oh Geez, this is a nice, comfortable place in Cleveland.' They say, 'Not that I think we can win, we've shown we can win,'" Pluto said.

Sean Fitzgerald is an announcer/board operator at Ideastream Public Media.