Without a deal with the standout prep star, Cleveland would have been faced with having no first-round picks from the past three First-Year Player Drafts currently in the team's farm system. The Tribe's top selections from the previous two Drafts are now a part of the future for the Colorado Rockies.
On July 31, the Tribe agreed to trade highly touted pitchers Alex White (15th overall in 2009) and Drew Pomeranz (fifth overall in 2010) to the Rockies in the blockbuster deal that brought right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians. The deal strengthened Cleveland's Major League rotation, but also struck a blow to the team's farm system.
Signing Lindor, ranked as the No. 9 Draft prospect by MLB.com, was important for the Indians before the trade for Jimenez. Getting a deal done in the aftermath of the deal seemed imperative. The two sides kept the negotiations going into Monday night, but Cleveland ultimately got its man.
Lindor, who will turn 18 in November, received a signing bonus worth $2.9 million from the Tribe. The Indians gave Pomeranz a $2.65 million bonus when he signed a year ago, and the club signed White for $2.25 million in '09. Cleveland's club record for a bonus given to a Draft pick is $3 million, which was given to Jeremy Guthrie in 2002.
Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting, said it was Lindor's ability to potentially remain at shortstop for years to come that convinced the organization that the time had come to break tradition.
In each of the past nine Drafts, Cleveland took a collegiate player with its top selection. The Tribe had not taken a high school position player with its top pick since 2000.
"It's not often," Grant said shortly after selecting Lindor, "that we go and scout high school players that we have the ability to say, 'This guy can play shortstop at the Major League side of things.' Often times, we go with the phrase, 'We think he can stay at short.'
"In this case, it's, 'This guy can play shortstop.' It's the intangibles. The instincts and the way he plays the game are pretty special."
Lindor (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) moved to the United States from Puerto Rico at the age of 12 years old and went on to attend Montverde Academy in Florida. This past season, the switch-hitting shortstop hit .528 (28-for-53) with six home runs, seven doubles and two triples. Lindor compiled 13 RBIs, stole 20 bases in 21 chances and scored 32 runs.
Lindor initially committed to Florida State.
By signing Lindor, Howard and 18th-rounder Shawn Armstrong (a right-hander out of East Carolina University) before Monday's deadline, Cleveland managed to sign 15 of its top 16 selections from the Draft. The lone holdout was left-hander Stephan Tarpley, who was the Tribe's eighth-round selection. Overall, the Indians signed 29 of their 50 picks.
With the loss of White and Pomeranz, Howard has the potential to develop into the top arm in Cleveland's system. MLB.com learned that Howard's bonus was worth $1.85 million.
The 19-year-old Howard, who was selected with the 67th overall pick, went 9-1 with a 0.31 ERA in 12 starts for Searcy High School in Searcy, Ark., this past season. Over 58 innings, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound righty struck out 115 batters, walked 25, scattered 19 hits and surrendered just two earned runs.
Howard was named the Arkansas High School Player of the Year by both Gatorade and MaxPreps. He was also the Most Valuable Player at the Connie Mack World Series while pitching for the Midland Redskins. MLB.com ranked Howard as the 18th-best prospect going into the June Draft.
Armstrong, 20, went 3-1 with a 4.63 ERA in 19 games (six starts) this past season for East Carolina University. Over 44 2/3 innings of work, the right-hander amassed 50 strikeouts against 22 walks. Armstrong was previously selected by the Astros in the 33rd round of the 2008 Draft, but he did not sign.