Like many kids his age, Francisco Lindor wears the jersey number of the player who he considers to be his idol. Unlike many players his age, Lindor has the opportunity to play for the same team his idol played for as he absorbed the game of baseball through his formative years.
As he was turning countless double plays with shortstop Omar Vizquel, former Indians second baseman and recent Hall of Fame inductee Roberto Alomar proudly wore Chief Wahoo on his hat while Lindor - the Indians’ most-recent first round draft selection - was honing his skills as an infielder in Puerto Rico, the native country of both men. Naturally, we use the term “man” loosely for the 17-year-old Lindor who is still soaking in the events of the past week.
“I was with my family watching the draft on the television, and when they called my name, I put my head in my hands and tears came to my eyes,” Lindor told the media via conference call on Thursday afternoon. “My mom and dad were hugging me. It was a great feeling.”
The fact that Alomar played for the Indians resonates well with the switch-hitting shortstop who stated that sharing the same employer – albeit in different generations of play – is one of the big reasons he was happy to be selected with the team’s eighth-overall selection. Thankfully, Lindor picked a former Indian as his idol as several reports are circulating that the potential Gold Glove infielder could command a pretty penny on signing day and the team could use all of the leverage they can muster.
The Houston Astros signed last year’s eighth-overall draft pick, Delino DeShields Jr, to a contract that included a bonus of $2.15 million (approximately $100K over the recommended slot compensation). In 2008, the White Sox handed second baseman Gordon Beckham $2.6 million, a similar deal given to last year’s fifth-overall selection, Indians farmhand Drew Pomeranz.
It is speculated that Lindor, however, will cost the Indians north of $3 million, a number that could creep up toward $5 million (per Tony at IPI) if the bargaining chips are firmly placed on the table. Lindor’s agent is the same guy who netted last year’s 44th-overall selection, Nick Castellanos, a $3.45 million deal from the Detroit Tigers.
Thankfully, as Indians fans saw roughly one year ago, the front office is willing to allocate considerable resources toward the draft rather than overpaying for marginal wins in the free agent market. Let’s flash back to Jon’s 2010 MLB Draft recap and how it pertained to the Cleveland Indians:
For years, the Indians drafted players that they believed they could sign “at slot”—the amount of money the MLB “suggests” they pay for a certain pick. This wonderful strategy gave you such glorious first round picks as Jeremy Sowers (rather than Jared Weaver), Beau Mills (rather than Jason Heyward), and Trevor Crowe (rather than Colby Rasmus). Sure, our guys signed for less money than those drafted after them, but none became impact players.
It finally seems that the front office has learned that the one place it makes sense to spend wildly is in the draft—especially for a small market team.
All signs point to general manager Chris Antonetti and the Indians front office going hard at Lindor to keep him from attending Florida State University, where he has already committed to attend. Lindor is only 17-years old, so forgoing life as a professional athlete at this stage of his existence will likely not impact the ultimate date when he would arrive in the majors. The opportunity cost is obviously the chance that there is a lot more downside to Lindor’s draft stock than there is provided by the seven higher slots.
Lindor, in response to the poetential for signing with the Tribe, told the media that he “cannot predict the future” and will let the process unfold. Like most first-round draft selections, fans will not here much about movement in a deal until the 11th hour on the mid-August deadline.
For now, Indians fans should take solace in the fact that they have a potential Gold Glove shortstop who grew up idolizing a player on their very team. Having an ownership team and front office willing to pay up for talent this time around rather than signing guys who would require less money up front is certainly an added bonus.