GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — For now, Francisco Lindor isn’t going anywhere. And, if he had his way, he’d never leave Cleveland.
“My approach this year is winning here,’’ the four-time All-Star shortstop said Monday following the Indians’ first full-squad workout of training camp. “I want to win here. I want to stay here in Cleveland; this is home. I’m not playing to get traded to put myself in a good spot to get traded … I am playing to win. I want to win here.”
There’s no way of knowing Lindor’s future. He’s under contract for two more seasons, but the Indians may not be able to afford to keep him and it’s possible they’ll have to trade him at some point rather than risk him walking away as a free agent in 2021.
Lindor can’t worry about what might happen, so he’s concentrating on the here and now.
“I am focusing on what I have in front of my toes,” he said. “We have a great group of guys in the clubhouse, a great coaching staff. I want to spend the whole year with them and win.’’
The Indians’ three-year run of playoff appearances ended last season with a 93-69 record and second-place finish behind Minnesota in the AL Central. Cleveland may not look like the best team on paper, but that’s fine with Lindor.
“I love telling doubters to shut up,” he said.
Lindor said heading into this season is no different than any other despite not knowing if he will stay with the Indians.
“It’s not odd,” he said. “This is home. I am used to the guys. I am used to the coaches. ‘’
While he was aware of the off-season trade rumors, Lindor said he focused on being “a better person, a better brother, son, nephew, cousin than paying attention to what was happening with the teams. … It is business. … You can get traded at any moment.’’
The Indians have approached Lindor in the past with long-term contract offers. The 26-year-old has turned them down to this point, and it’s hard to imagine the team coming up with enough money to satisfy him. Still, there remains the chance that he could stay in Cleveland — remote as that may seem.
“If the negotiations or whatever make sense, it’s going to happen,” Lindor said. “The team is not broke. The league is not broke. There is money. However, if it makes senses for both sides; it’s going to happen. If not, it’s not going to happen. God has a plan and I believe in what he’s got for me. If he wants me to be here in Cleveland or somewhere else … I have shown how much I want to be here and so has the team, so it is a matter of things making sense.’’
In an effort to prevent contract negotiations from becoming a distraction to his teammates, or the front office, Lindor said he would likely table any talks “somewhere in early March.”
Indians president Chris Antonetti said that the organization has made meaningful efforts to retain Lindor for the long haul.
Lindor avoided salary arbitration in January, agreeing to an incentive-laden $17.5 million contract for 2020. At this time last year, the dynamic switch-hitter was rehabilitating a calf injury and there was no definitive time frame for his return. Being healthy has given him some perspective.
“It is exciting when you go out there and get to compete with your teammates again,’’ he said. “It is a blessing to do. Last year, I couldn’t do it.’’
While joking with slugger Franmil Reyes, who struggled while adjusting to tracking fly balls in left field during batting practice and laughing and hugging catcher Roberto Perez, Lindor joyfully took part in the team’s first workout, preceded by an emotional speech from manager Terry Francona.
Despite the departure of two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was traded to Texas for outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. and pitching prospect Emmanuel Clase (of 100 mph fastball fame), Lindor believes the World Series title window is still open wide for the Indians, who haven’t won it all since 1948 — baseball’s current longest drought.
Lindor credited an increase in team speed to the possibility that he might not hit leadoff this season. It’s a possibility Francona discussed during his media briefing.
“Not leading off might benefit the team a little bit more,’’ Lindor said. “It seems like we might have a little more speed this year, from the guys that I’ve seen in the clubhouse.”
While Lindor was passionate in his comments about staying in Cleveland, Francona was dripping with sweat after his speech.
“The way I feel about the game, or the players doesn’t really change, but the responsibility you feel, not just to talk at ‘em, but to talk to them about things we care about,’’ he said. “It’s not just to check a box, ‘Oh, we had a meeting, now we move on.’ So, when I was done I was drenched. I care about our guys a lot. I want them to know that and I don’t want to let them down.’’