CLEVELAND (AP) — Francisco Lindor’s future with the Indians was already unclear and uncertain.
On Saturday, it got even more confusing.
The four-time All-Star shortstop, who has been the subject of trade rumors because Cleveland will probably never be able to offer him a long-term contract close to what he may one day get as a free agent, made some contradictory comments while discussing his curious situation.
Lindor said he would love to stay in Cleveland, calling it “a home.” But the 26-year-old also said the Indians have not made him the “right thing” to this point, and he questioned whether the club would ever be positioned to come up with the kind of money needed to keep him.
And while discussing other massive, multiyear contracts around baseball, he mentioned wanting a $500 million contract — “anybody wants that,” he said — before saying finances aren’t a factor.
“’I’m not money-driven. I’m championship-driven,” Lindor said during a break at Tribefest, the Indians’ annual winter warm-up for fans. “That’s what I want. I want to win. Wherever I go, I want to win. I want to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland. This is what I want to do. That’s my mission. I’m here today and I want to win for the Indians. It has nothing to do with the money. It has nothing to do with the years. It has nothing to do with who I like or who I don’t like.
“It has to do with championships. The front office tries to put a team together to win, not to save money. They’re supposed to try to put a team together to win. I’m here to try to win.”
The Indians are in a tough spot with Lindor, who avoided salary arbitration last month by agreeing to a $17.5 million contract with incentives for 2020. He’s under Cleveland’s contractual control until after the 2021 season, when he could cash in for a payday of untold proportions.
Based on some recent deals given to stars like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Lindor’s one-half billion dollar dream payout isn’t far-fetched.
In the meantime, the Indians have entertained contract offers for Lindor, one of baseball’s best all-around players who may just be entering into his prime. Cleveland has declined chances to move Lindor to this point, but that could change at any time.
Lindor said he pays little attention to trade rumors and and he understands the business side of baseball. He also made a point of saying he’s got no power if the Indians decide to deal him.
He does, however, control his long-term future. So why doesn’t he sign with Cleveland?
“Because they haven’t offered me the right thing,” he said, flashing the smile that, along with a powerful bat and slick glove, has made him a fan favorite.
When Lindor was asked what it would take for the Indians to lock him up, he turned the question around on a reporter.
“You tell me,” he said. “What’s the number? What’s the number where you’d put me?”
Lindor was quoted the seven-year, $245 million contract the Angles gave to World Series hero Anthony Rendon. Lindor asked how much that averaged to per season before launching into a long, perplexing response.
“A lot of money sounds pretty right now,” said Lindor, who has dyed his hair platinum. “Everything sounds pretty. A lot of years sound pretty, too. At the end of the day, it’s about what’s best or me, my family, and also the Indians’ organization. If they don’t think I can stay here because of the money situation, then I won’t be here.
“But I do want to be in Cleveland, I love the Indians, I love their fans. The city has grown on me a lot. When it is the right time to sign an extension? I don’t know when it’s the right time. God has a plan for me and my family and I truly believe in it. What’s going to happen is going to happen.”
The Indians and their fans have been in this situation before with Albert Belle, Jim Thome, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and other star players. And that usually happens is they get traded or sign elsewhere.
As she speedily walked across a floor inside Cleveland Convention Center to get into an autograph line, Brittany Hanus of Solon, Ohio, said he can’t bear the thought of Lindor in another uniform.
“It would be heartbreaking,” she said while wearing a red No. 12 Lindor jersey. “I really hope we can hold onto him, that would be great. I know we’re a small market team, and it’s hard to compete for players with the Yankees and the Astros and Dodgers, but I think having more fans come to the games would help. I’d just hate to see him go.”