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How will MLB's return affect Francisco Lindor's Indians future?

Major League Baseball's shortened season could have a significant impact on Francisco Lindor's future as a member of the Cleveland Indians.

CLEVELAND — When the Cleveland Indians left Spring Training in March, Francisco Lindor's situation with the team seemed pretty clear. 

While Lindor would serve as the Indians' Opening Day shortstop, the reality remained that the team would likely spend the first four months of the season assessing its place in the standings before deciding whether or not to deal him at the MLB Trade Deadline.

That, of course, was before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put the 2020 season in doubt, with the league's teams and players not agreeing until Tuesday night to plans for a 60-game season starting in late-July

But while baseball's season will be much shorter than usual, in some ways, the Indians' situation with Lindor hasn't changed -- it's just been sped up.

As details regarding baseball's 2020 season emerged on Tuesday night, one of the most noteworthy elements for Cleveland was the inclusion of an Aug. 31 trade deadline

That means the Indians will still have an opportunity to trade Lindor before the 2021 offseason, where history shows his value as an asset would be diminished by only having one year of team control remaining on his contract.

That's not to say that the shortened MLB season won't have any sort of effect on the situation between the Indians and Lindor, who suspended their talks on a contract extension in March

For one, instead of four months, Cleveland will now have roughly five weeks to decide whether or not it wants to hold onto its 4-time All-Star shortstop for a potential postseason run. 

For another, it will only likely hurt Lindor's trade value that any team acquiring him at this year's deadline would only be doing so with 30 games left in the 2020 season and without the ability to sell tickets through at least the end of this year.

In all likelihood, the shortened nature of the 2020 season has hurt the Indians leverage and made it more likely they'll wait until the offseason to consider making a blockbuster trade. But if nothing else, Cleveland will still be able to consider its options, just like team president Chris Antonetti said it would when he discussed Lindor's future at Spring Training earlier this year.

"There have been times where we’ve kept players until the end of their contracts and they have left as free agents and we have either gotten draft pick compensation for them or not," Antonetti said. "There have been times that we have traded those players and times that we have extended those players. I think all of those options will be on the table. 

"As I’ve said from the beginning, our clear preference would be to have Francisco here for a far longer term and keep him an Indian for a really long time. If that’s not possible, we have to look at what those alternatives."

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