Some big news came out of the Cleveland Indians camp toward the end of last week.
No, it was not in the form of a big-name free agent signing. It was not in the form of a blockbuster trade, either.
It was in the form of an injury to the team’s best player, Francisco Lindor. Lindor strained his right calf while preparing for spring training and it was reported that he would be out for 7-9 weeks. That timetable puts his status for March 28’s Opening Day in question.
— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) February 8, 2019
This is some of the worst news that the Tribe and its fans could have gotten with spring training starting in less than a week.
But, if there was a “good” time for this injury to occur, it would be now. Lindor will likely miss all of spring training and maybe even the first week or two of the regular season.
With him being out and the team knowing he is going to be out for almost two months, that gives Terry Francona and the rest of the coaching staff time to evaluate who will fill the 25-year-olds shoes.
The two candidates that jump off the page are Yu Chang and Max Moroff.
Chang is the Indians No. 6 ranked prospect and has a power bat as a short stop. Last season in Triple-A Columbus, he hit 13 homeruns with a .411 slugging percentage. The year before in Double-A Akron, he had 24 long balls. Chang is an extra base hit machine who will always have a high swing-and-miss rate. He logged over 800 innings at short last season and committing nine errors.
Moroff came over in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates in mid-November. He played in just 26 games in 2018, hitting .186/.284/.356. Most of his playing time came at second base, but could play short just as easily.
Back to Lindor.
With the All-Star not getting any reps in Arizona, Indians fans can hope that means it will not be a lost season for Lindor.
Because this is a lower body injury, he will still be able to throw and do some fielding work, as long with some light tee work.
He is among the league leaders in WAR at the shortstop position and was in the MVP conversation last season, finishing in sixth place.
Cleveland knows about calf injuries, and injuries in general all too well.
Michael Brantley missed much of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Last year, Andrew Miller, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Josh Donaldson all missed time- the ladder of the two missing time with calf injuries (Donaldson’s was before he was traded to Cleveland).
The Indians cannot afford to rush any players back from injury, let alone a player of Lindor’s caliber.
Maybe this news will motivate the front office to go out and try to acquire a productive piece for the outfield/ bullpen. But at the rate at which the team has moved at this offseason, that seems very unlikely.
Other players in the lineup that are not named Jose Ramirez are going to have to step up in spring training and once the regular season starts (looking at you, Carlos Santana, Roberto Perez, and Jason Kipnis).
Maybe the starting pitching will start off the season on a tear where the offense only needs to score two or three runs to win a game. Maybe the role players will end up being more productive than everyone thinks.
This is the most inconvenient thing for a team who relies heavily on its star shortstop. And while no one should be hitting the panic button yet, no one should be rushing Lindor back to the diamond.