KC Royals: Lindor trade couldn’t have come soon enough
The KC Royals won’t be shedding any tears about Francisco Lindor’s departure from the American League.
Thursday’s trade that propelled Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor out of the American League was always a matter of when and where, never if. Everyone around baseball knew, probably as early as late 2019, that the Indians, a team with increasingly tight purse strings, weren’t going to pay Lindor the kind of money he could easily command from other teams when his contract expires in less than a year. And although Kansas City wasn’t a realistic destination for Lindor, the news Cleveland dealt him to the New York Mets had to be welcomed by the KC Royals.
That’s because for all of his six years in the AL, Lindor has been the drummer, and the Royals the drum. If Kansas City never sees Lindor again, it will be too soon—he’s been that good against them.
Just how good is in the numbers. Lindor has faced the Royals every season since he broke in with Cleveland back in 2015, the same year Kansas City was marching toward its second World Series title ever. But as good as the Royals were that season, the 21-year old rookie feasted on their pitching, slashing .317/.362/.634 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 10 games. He homered and drove in three runs in his first appearance against KC; two games later, he added another homer and four more RBIs.
In an early July 2018 contest, Lindor clubbed a pair of home runs on his way to collecting seven of Cleveland’s nine RBIs in a 9-3 Indians’ victory.
He hit .348 against the Royals in 2016 and .392 in 2019.
But it’s his career numbers against Kansas City that are the most stunning. He’s fared better against the Royals than any other club in five offensive categories: hits (122 of his career 896), home runs (27 of 138), RBIs (76 of 411), stolen bases (15 of 99), and slugging (.626 against a career .488). Lindor’s 25 doubles (out of 191) against KC tie the same number against Detroit for his career best. His .381 OBP and 1.006 OPS versus the Royals are his best against American League clubs; his .326 average against KC is better than against any AL club except Toronto.
Simply put, Lindor has owned the Royals, and so will miss them much more than they’ll miss him. Fortunately, the Mets aren’t on KC’s 2021 schedule, so the club won’t see him until at least 2022 (unless, of course, both teams run across each other in the postseason).
(The trade makes things easier on the KC Royals for another reason. The Indians included pitcher Carlos Carrasco in the deal: Carrasco is 12-8 with a 3.72 ERA against Kansas City in 27 games).
And although it won’t help the Royals beat Cleveland, not seeing Lindor might take a bit of the sting out of the constant reminder that KC drafted Bubba Starling ahead of him (and George Springer and Anthony Rendon) in 2011.
Should Kansas City have pursued Lindor? No. The price in trade would have been too great—the Indians would have demanded pitching, and the Royals have too much invested in their stable of young mound prospects to give any up now. Cleveland might also have wanted a shortstop-for-shortstop swap; KC isn’t ready to talk any trades involving Adalberto Mondesi or Bobby Witt Jr.
Too, principal owner John Sherman probably wouldn’t be willing to pay what Lindor would require to stay after 2021. And Lindor isn’t the kind of talent a still-developing club gives up a lot to get for just one routine season, especially when the deal is with an intra-division rival.
Cleveland traded superb shortstop Francisco Lindor out of the American League Thursday. The KC Royals respect him, but won’t miss him.