Inbox: How does market for Lindor look?

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CLEVELAND — The offseason formally gets underway five days after the World Series ends. Teams will need to decide which options to pick up, and free agents will be on the market. That leaves about two more weeks for the Indians to establish their plan for this winter. Let’s take

CLEVELAND — The offseason formally gets underway five days after the World Series ends. Teams will need to decide which options to pick up, and free agents will be on the market. That leaves about two more weeks for the Indians to establish their plan for this winter.

Let’s take a look at some questions entering the offseason:

The financial losses that each team suffered this year due to the coronavirus pandemic makes it challenging to predict what this offseason could look like. Whether the Indians are able to find the right deal to move Francisco Lindor or not, he’ll certainly be on the market.

It would’ve been difficult enough for Cleveland to move Lindor with just one year of control remaining until he hits free agency. Adding in the pandemic and his rare inconsistent season at the plate will bring even more hurdles to overcome for the Indians to receive the ideal return package. But because he’ll likely earn around $20 million for the 2021 season (remember, the Tribe will be looking for ways to cut payroll) and the likelihood of an extension waning, it still seems more likely that Lindor will be moved over the winter.

As far as his potential suitors, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince recently laid out a few trade scenarios, with teams including the Mets, Angels, Cardinals, Phillies and others.

It wouldn’t be surprising. With just one year of arbitration left and the financial losses added into the mix, the Indians may need to add some extra incentives in order to get an interested club to bite. And with the Tribe’s greatest strength in its starting pitching, names like Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale or Triston McKenzie could pop up in trade rumors.

Both Yu Chang and Mike Freeman could be options to fill in at shortstop immediately. However, the Indians would probably be looking to pass the baton to their No. 2 prospect Tyler Freeman, according to MLB Pipeline. The 21-year-old was on pace to be ready by the 2021 season, having hit .319 with a .751 OPS in 62 games at Class A Advanced Lynchburg in ‘19. But after a strange ‘20 season where he was limited to practices at the club’s alternate training site, he could need a little more time before he’s big league ready.

Don’t expect any big splashes on the free-agent market. The Indians indicated they will have to trim their payroll even more for 2021. Because of that, it’s more likely the Tribe goes for talent in trading someone like Lindor or picking up closer Brad Hand’s $10 million option to possibly move him as well.

If the club makes any free-agent signings, they’ll need to be inexpensive. Cesar Hernandez said he hoped to remain in Cleveland, and the front office noted it would want to bring him back if it made sense financially. Depending on what figure they could negotiate, Hernandez could be back next season.

The Indians don’t appear to want to move José Ramírez away from the hot corner. Assuming Lindor gets traded and Hernandez doesn’t get re-signed, Chang and Mike Freeman could be options at either middle infield spot (and maybe, down the line, Tyler Freeman at short), leaving a handful of options for first base.

If the team declines Carlos Santana’s $17.5 million option, Jake Bauers, Josh Naylor, Bobby Bradley and even top prospect Nolan Jones could be fighting for playing time at first.

We’ll let Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti’s recent comment answer this question:

“[Jones is] out at our fall programming in Arizona now and will mix in potentially at some other spots [other than third base]. Obviously with José at third and as Nolan gets closer to the big leagues, that’s something that could make sense.”

Long story short: 2021 is not too early. He’ll need some more time in the corner outfield spots or maybe first base, but Jones is likely on the fast track to making his Major League debut at some point next season.

Emmanuel Clase will be ready to go, assuming he has no injuries between now and Spring Training. He was in contact with the Indians coaching staff during his suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs before the 2020 season, and he had been working from home to stay ready for next year.

Just because some can be quick to clarify that the 2020 season was unlike any other, making it hard to compare things like Shane Bieber’s MLB pitching Triple Crown to any other season. Because of that, my favorite stat is one that made history without being affected by the season’s length: Bieber became the quickest pitcher to reach 100 strikeouts in Major League history (in 62 1/3 innings). It just puts the historic pace he got off to into perspective.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.