Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor may not be wearing navy blue and red for much longer.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney on Friday, a high-ranking MLB executive "predicts that both Betts and Lindor will be traded this winter. Thinks it makes sense for both Red Sox and Indians to turn page, capitalize on value that is more likely to depreciate in the months ahead as Betts, Lindor edge toward free agency."
On Thursday, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that Cleveland has requested all clubs in on trading for Lindor present their "best and final offers so they can make an assessment over the weekend."
"I do think [the Indians] are trying to bring things to a rapid conclusion," a league executive involved in the talks told Rosenthal. "I'm not sure why they want to impose an artificial deadline when they may get a much better deal in January once teams have a clearer picture of what options they have."
As for Betts, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Tuesday that the Los Angeles Dodgers "have engaged in exploratory trade talks," but their "top priority" is to acquire Lindor.
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported the Cincinnati Reds were the latest team to enter their name in the Lindor sweepstakes:
Mark Feinsand @Feinsand
Regarding a potential Reds/Indians Lindor deal, don't forget they were involved in a three-team deal that landed Trevor Bauer in Cincy. Indians aren't afraid to move a player in-state and Reds aren't afraid to deal top prospects. Who knows if it will happen, but it's interesting.
Rosenthal confirmed Feinsand's report and added the Dodgers and San Diego Padres are interested in trading for Lindor. L.A. was linked to the shortstop by MLB Network's Jon Paul Morosi back in late October:
"Sources say the Dodgers are expected to pursue a trade for Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor as one possible addition to an offense that managed only a .303 on-base percentage during this month's National League Division Series loss to the [Washington] Nationals. [...] Incumbent shortstop Corey Seager would become a trade candidate -- though perhaps not to Cleveland -- if talks between the Dodgers and Indians gain momentum."
Nightengale mentioned the Dodgers as a landing spot for Lindor during the annual winter meetings:
However, Nightengale added in his Tuesday report that Boston is "much more inclined to trade Betts ... than Cleveland is with Lindor" because of the Red Sox's intent to slash payroll to get underneath the $208 million tax threshold in 2020.
Any team to trade for Betts or Lindor would not be making a long-term investment if things didn't work out. Betts is owed $27.7 million in 2020 before entering unrestricted free agency, while Lindor is owed $16.7 million next season and under team control through 2021. If a team is willing to give up a lot to acquire either player, though, chances are it would offer a long-term extension.
The New York Mets, meanwhile, decided that the price tag to pull off a Lindor trade was "too high for a player whose salary might rise to $25 million in 2021," per Rosenthal.
Newsday's Tim Healey expanded on the Mets' involvement:
Tim Healey @timbhealey
Mets engaged with Indians on Francisco Lindor, sources said, and Indians asked repeatedly about Jeff McNeil. Not sure of other names exchanged, but that seemed like just about a non-starter for the Mets. (Also worth noting: Mets inquire on about every big name you can think of.) https://t.co/rketAAQWCY
Betts and Lindor have proved to be among the best at their respective positions. Betts was named the 2018 American League MVP after he led MLB with a .346 batting average and .640 slugging percentage en route to a World Series victory with Boston.
Last season, the 27-year-old four-time All-Star posted a .295/.391/.524 slash line with 29 home runs and 80 RBI alongside an MLB-high 135 runs scored while earning his fourth consecutive Gold Glove.
Lindor went .284/.335/.518 in 2019 with 32 home runs and 74 RBI. The 26-year-old four-time All-Star earned his second career Gold Glove.