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Dodgers interested in Francisco Lindor, as they should be

First Anthony Rendon, and now Lindor? It could be a wild winter in LA

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The World Series isn’t even over yet and we’ve already heard our first significant trade rumor involving LA and a premiere player.

Francisco Lindor. My goodness.

Yes, it appears the Dodgers are interested in acquiring Lindor — as are 28 other teams (and I don’t need a source to tell me that). It remains to be seen if Cleveland is actually shopping him, but Cleveland is always looking for a chance to shed payroll while still remaining competitive. See the Trevor Bauer trade from July. Lindor is projected to make $16.7 million via arbitration. He’s in his second year of the process and will surely top $20 million next winter, so there may not be a better time to move him and get good value in return.

Lindor, 26 next month, is one of the game’s premium players. He’s coming off a bit of a down season that saw him hit .284/.335/.518 with a 114 wRC+ and a 4.4 fWAR. Prior to 2019, Lindor hit .288/.350/.487 with a 120 wRC+ and averaged 5.7 fWAR per season (which included a 4.0 fWAR in 99 games in his rookie season). He has also hit at least 32 home runs in each of the last three seasons, topping out at 38 in ‘18.

Where Lindor might make the most sense for the Dodgers is defensively. While he might be a wash when it comes to Corey Seager offensively, he’s a better defender and won’t have to move off the position. That’s not debatable. He has the fourth-most defensive runs saved (DRS) at shortstop since 2015, behind Andrelton Simmons, Nick Ahmed and (the awful) Addison Russell. Seager is 11th in that same time with 18 DRS. While defensive metrics aren’t the be-all end-all, they’re a solid indicator of a player’s defensive prowess.

Before we get into the acquisition cost, some folks may be wondering to themselves, “What about Anthony Rendon?” And it’s a legitimate question. The all-world third baseman is set to hit free agency in the next seven days, and he has been linked to the Dodgers in some capacity for a few months and is the superior offensive player to Lindor. While he plays a less important defensive position, his acquisition would require similar moving pieces to if the Dodgers acquired Lindor to play shortstop. So, it comes down to whether the Dodgers want to shake things up on the infield and if they want to do it by acquiring Lindor or Rendon. Lindor would cost either young players, prospects and money, while Rendon would cost money and their second-round draft pick in June. Here’s a comparison of the two superstars.

Francisco Lindor vs. Anthony Rendon

Career AVG OBP SLG ISO wRC+ fWAR/600
Career AVG OBP SLG ISO wRC+ fWAR/600
Lindor .288 .347 .493 .206 119 5.03
Rendon .290 .367 .490 .199 128 4.99

The numbers are a lot closer than expected. Rendon had an injury-shortened season in 2015 that saw him play in just 80 games and post a 97 wRC+. But other than that, they’re pretty evenly matched offensively. However, Lindor gets some bonus points for playing a more difficult position and being roughly 3 12 years younger than Rendon.

Acquiring Lindor and keeping Seager would push him over to third base, Justin Turner over to first base and Max Muncy to second base. Muncy would probably share time with Gavin Lux, and Lux could see some time in the outfield in this scenario. If they move Seager, then Muncy would probably slide over to third base with Turner going to first and Lux slotting in at second base. If they went with Rendon, the same scenarios apply. Either way, I think if the Dodgers land either Lindor or Rendon, Seager is going to be traded to either recoup some talent or to improve other areas of the team.

Seager could headline a package for Lindor with, say, Keibert Ruiz and a lottery ticket-type third piece for Lindor and a secondary piece could work. If Cleveland doesn’t have interest in Seager, a prospect-led package of Lux and, perhaps, a Josiah Gray/Tony Gonsolin and a third guy like DJ Peters might make some sense. The wild card proposal could be headlined with either Alex Verdugo or Julio Urias.

There are a number of plausible scenarios in which the Dodgers could land Lindor. While it’d be more complicated overall to get him than Rendon, the same moving parts would be in play if the Dodgers got Rendon. Either way, it’s encouraging to hear the Dodgers are at least interested in two of the game’s top position players. And either way, they’re going to have to pay a premium price, monetarily, to land either of these studs.

Odds are they won’t acquire either of them because acquiring talented players like this is difficult. Remember, Jon Morosi was the one on the Corey Kluber-Dodgers beat last winter before nothing came of it. But if Friedman and the Dodgers want to infuse some new blood into the organization after not winning the World Series for a fifth consecutive season, this might be the best way to go about it.

It’d be risky either way, but perhaps it’s time for the Dodgers to take a bigger risk than in years past. Plus, Lindor’s million dollar smile belongs in Los Angeles.