Brief thoughts on today’s rough news for the Tribe:
The Indians announced on Friday afternoon that [Francisco] Lindor recently sustained a right calf strain while preparing for Spring Training in Orlando, Fla. He was evaluated at the Cleveland Clinic on Wednesday by Dr. Mark Schickendantz, who confirmed the moderate strain.
The 25-year-old shortstop is expected to return to Major League game activity in 7 to 9 weeks following his Wednesday evaluation, which would put his return between March 27 and April 10.
This could be a serious blow for the Indians. There’s simply no replacing a player of Francisco Lindor’s caliber. Coming off the best season of his young career, he’s arguably the best shortstop in baseball and one of the top five or so players in the sport overall. The track record speaks for itself:
The Indians have a few stopgap options — prospects Yu Chang and Eric Stamets, Max Moroff or Ryan Flaherty — but there’s no guarantee any of the four would be above replacement level. Should Lindor return healthy in early April, it won’t matter. That’s not enough time to even serve as a blip on the radar.
But if the injury lingers or Lindor struggles or even worse, gets hurt again, the Indians will have lost one-half of their two-headed infield monster (along with Jose Ramirez). An extended stretch without Lindor could shine a bright light on the weaker cogs in the Indians offense, especially with such little production at prime offensive positions (outfield corners, first base). But, sure, no need to pay $16M per year to retain outfielder Michael Brantley.
Fortunately, the Indians’ rotation is absolutely ridiculous. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer cover up a whole bunch of problems, and based on how the AL Central looks now, the Indians would need to fall directly on their faces to not win the division again.
Losing Lindor for an extended period is a great first act in the tumble, though.