Detroit Tigers: How the Francisco Lindor deal affects the AL Central?

Sep 24, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Willi Castro (49) hits a home run. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Willi Castro (49) hits a home run. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports /

There are a few ways to look at how the Francisco Lindor deal impacts the Detroit Tigers and the other teams in the division.

Steve Cohen has done plenty in his short time as the Mets owner to prove he is not messing around on upgrading the team. Yesterday’s blockbuster trade with Cleveland shook up the baseball world, and the impact to the Detroit Tigers and the rest of the AL Central was immediate.

The big discussion point among Tigers fans and the front office is “wait until next year” with Lindor being one of the bats available in a loaded free-agent class. While Lindor has not even suited up for the Mets yet or signed a contract extension, the Mets are one of the few teams that can meet his salary demands. According to Mets president Sandy Alderson, they plan on keeping him as a Met.

“We acquired Francisco because of his present ability and the possibility that he could be a Met long term. There’s no guarantee of that. It’s something we will approach in the next few weeks,” Alderson said. “At this point, we felt comfortable giving up the group of players we did for both Lindor and Carrasco. … We gave up a lot of control for short-term control, but I think we’re comfortable with that and what we might be able to do going forward.”

With Lindor gone, Cleveland loses the face of their franchise and their payroll. Combined with the trade of Corey Kluber, and the release of closer Brad Hand, they will have shed nearly $40 million in salary in the last three seasons.  However, with President Chris Antonetti at the helm, Cleveland has made the postseason eight out of the last ten seasons.

Ok, so how does this affect the Detroit Tigers, Rogelio?

For one, Cleveland will probably take an immediate step back, and they are not a franchise willing to spend money to get better. But they can evaluate talent, and there is a clear case here with the 2016 MLB Draft.  A great piece by Travis Sawchik of FiveThirtyEight points out,  Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and Zach Plesac all came from the same 2016 draft class and produced the best fWAR in the American League at 7.8. Only the Reds were higher at 8.1.

Another fact Sawchik points out is rather jaw-dropping:

Since the June draft began in 1965, only 77 team seasons have featured three or more starting pitchers who pitched in the same season for the club that drafted them, according to And of those groups, Cleveland’s 2016 class has pitched two seasons together and been first and second in ERA+, a metric that adjusts for ballpark and run environment factors.

Corey Kluber got better as he went along and picked up two Cy Young awards in his time in Cleveland, and Mike Clevinger also kept improving as time went along. They excel at having a plan with each pitcher that enters the organization.

Triston McKenzie may be the next Cleveland pitcher to step in and be an effective starter. We saw what he did against the Tigers in his major league debut in 2020, so he could continue to get better.

Who steps up when Brad Hand is released? More than likely it is James Karinchak, who had 53 strikeouts in just 27 innings pitched last year. Emmanuel Clase is also waiting in the wings after coming back from suspension.

If you understand scouting and how future value works, they have seven players graded 50 who can be regulars among their top 10 in their farm system with Nolan Jones, a third baseman by trade who projects as an outfielder, leading the way. Joey Cantillo and Gabriel Arias, who they got from San Diego in the Clevinger deal, could also provide impact soon.

They get value back on their trades, and in the Lindor deal, they are getting two infielders in Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, who will play short and second, solving a glaring need. Both are under club control for multiple years.

Look, I get it. This is one fewer name the Tigers can go after with Lindor, but if we can learn something from all of this is that Cleveland may have a setback from an offensive standpoint in 2021, but pitching wins ballgames. They seem to have enough to at least keep them competitive in the Al Central.

What it means for the Detroit Tigers is that you hope to see the value of their recent draft picks come to fruition. Bieber, (fourth round) Civale, (third round), and Plesac (12th round) were set up by success by player development. Detroit is getting more analytical with their approach to drafting and player development but there needs to be more evidence of that.

Detroit should look at how Cleveland has been able to take players at their highest value and trade them for players who can keep them competitive. Willi Castro and Jeimer Candelario are at least a start to that concept under Al Avila.