The Indians, and fantasy owners alike, were handed a bit of bad news on Friday when it was announced that shortstop Francisco Lindor had sustained a right calf strain while working out in preparation for spring training.
The 25-year-old actually suffered the injury last weekend, and informed the Indians’ training staff on Monday after the soreness lingered. He has already begun the rehab process and will be evaluated on a daily basis throughout the spring.
The good news, is that the initial diagnosis is that Lindor will only miss 7-to-9 weeks of action. With Opening Day only seven weeks away, it’s likely that the Indians will be without their superstar for at least the first couple of weeks of the regular season. That’s also assuming that he can avoid any setbacks in the recovery process.
Then there’s the question of how much does his fantasy stock drop due to the injury. Knocking a couple of weeks off of his projected stats for the year doesn’t seem like it would move the needle too much, especially when you factor in the replacement-level stats that you would be receiving from that spot while Lindor is sidelined.
There are a couple of other factors that need to be considered though. The risk level in drafting Lindor certainly increases, as if he suffers any type of setback, or risks further aggravation by trying to rush back for Opening Day, and he could be looking at a much longer layoff.
It’s also likely with a leg injury, that the Indians cut back on Lindor’s stolen base attempts, at least early in the season. For a five-category monster who derives considerable value from his stolen base output, that’s a very valid concern. Lindor swiped a career-best 25 bases during the 2018 season, doing so in 35 total attempts. Prior to 2018 though, he had averaged just 21 total stolen base attempts over the previous two seasons. If he falls more in line with that range, as opposed to the 35 attempts from 2018, it’ll absolutely bring down his overall value.
Prior to the injury news, Lindor was the fourth player selected on average in fantasy drafts, behind only Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and teammate Jose Ramirez. While it’s in an extremely limited sample size, the early results since the injury have dropped Lindor to the end of the first round in 15-team formats.
Given the nature of the injury, the increased risk and the likelihood of fewer stolen base attempts, that seems like a pretty accurate adjustment by the public. Still, it’s going to be hard for many owners to pass over a player like Lindor in the middle of the opening round, especially if his prognosis improves as we inch closer to Opening Day.
Bay Area Bryce?
The Giants have jumped into the race in recent days, and according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, they have “no desire” to make Harper in offer in the neighborhood of the 10 years and $300 million that he was rumored to be seeking when the offseason began.
Instead, the Giants plan to make Harper a lucrative short-term offer. Giants’ president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told reporters on Friday that “There is obviously mutual interest on both sides… We thought it made sense to get together. We had a good conversation over a few hours. He's obviously got a lot of suitors and a lot of interest. He's going to have some decisions to make. I think it's fair to say that was an expression of our interest level, to make the trip out there to meet with him. You don't make a trip out there to meet with a player just for show."
That meeting that Zaidi referred to, reportedly went well and lasted for four hours, which was much longer than either side had anticipated. Giants’ CEO Larry Baer commented on the Harper situation at FanFest on Sunday, stating "Bryce Harper is an amazing player… It’s very hard, and these are competitions, and I can’t handicap it. I don’t know where we are. But we’re giving it a shot. That’s all we can do."
According to Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area, there’s a growing sense among the Giants’ clubhouse that Harper actually prefers the Giants over the other clubs that are chasing him.
The Giants, along with the Dodgers and Padres who are also pursuing the superstar outfielder, are all in close proximity to Harper’s home in Las Vegas, which seems to be a major selling point. The Nationals, Yankees, White Sox and Phillies remain in the mix as well.
While each passing day brings us closer to a resolution, it doesn’t appear that a signing is imminent.
Mariners’ manager Scott Servais announced Sunday that "there may not be a set closer on a particular night." "We might have our hottest reliever come in the game in the eighth inning," Servais added … "It will frustrate some people, but there’s a method to the madness. Some nights it’ll work, some nights it may not, but that’ll be the approach going in."
Hunter Strickland is still viewed as the favorite for save chances in the Mariners’ bullpen, but if Servais is to be believed, they may utilize much more of a committee in the late innings than originally anticipated.
Of course, this is coming from the same manager that had the best relief pitcher in baseball last season in Edwin Diaz, and deployed him almost exclusively in save situations, generating a league-leading 57 saves.
Reading between the lines, it sounds as though they don’t want to just hand the job to Strickland to begin the season, rather they want him to earn the role. He still makes for a worthwhile target in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts.
In a similar sentiment, but on the opposite side of the spectrum here, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reported Friday that the Reds might not use ace reliever Raisel Iglesias as their everyday closer this season. He points out that new Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson (who served in the same capacity for the Brewers last year) prefers to use his best reliever in a swing-type, high-leverage role. Josh Hader was the best reliever on the Brewers and he was used in multi-inning stints when the game was on the line rather than being saved for the ninth inning. Iglesias has a recent history of being a starter and has been used to get more than three outs on numerous occasions by the Reds over the past two years.
Such a change to Iglesias' role would obviously result in fewer saves but more strikeouts and a larger impact on his fantasy teams' ERA and WHIP. Jared Hughes and Michael Lorenzen would be the favorites to close games if Iglesias doesn't handle the ninth inning.
Quick Hits: Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Indians are now unlikely to trade star right-hander Corey Kluber, as trade talks surrounding him have quieted to a whisper over the last few weeks… Xavier Scruggs will hold an open workout for scouts on Wednesday as he attempts to return to MLB after spending the last two seasons mashing the baseball in Korea… Buster Posey (hip) is on schedule with his recovery and expected to be ready for Opening Day, though the Giants plan to limit his workload initially… Franklin Barreto will not report to A’s camp with his teammates on Friday, as he’ll be delayed for a couple of days by a visa issue caused by the political upheaval in Venezuela… Matt Chapman (thumb, shoulder) will be a bit behind schedule at the start of spring training, but is expected to be ready for the opening series against the Mariners in Japan… James Kaprielian will be behind the other Athletics pitchers in spring training after having a setback with his shoulder injury. He felt lat soreness after his latest bullpen session and is set to undergo an MRI… The Pirates signed veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… Brian Anderson is set to begin the 2019 campaign as the Marlins’ everyday third baseman… Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that he believes Archie Bradley is the favorite to begin the season as the Diamondbacks' closer… The Twins signed Lucas Duda to a minor league contract with a big league camp invite, though he’ll have a difficult time cracking the Opening Day roster with Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron and Tyler Austin in the way… The Brewers signed former top prospect Brett Lawrie to a minor league deal. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2016, but is still only 29-years-old… Former Mets general manager Jim Duquette heard that the Yankees informally offered Manny Machado a seven or eight-year contract for $220 million… The Royals signed veteran right-hander Homer Bailey to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He should have a decent chance of cracking the Opening Day rotation in Kansas City… Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that RHP Ryan Madson is "thinking about not playing this season."... The Indians picked up Matt Joyce on a minor league deal with a spring training invitation… The Diamondbacks signed a pair of hurlers (Ricky Nolasco and Mark Rzepczynski) to minor league contracts with big league camp invites… The Nationals officially re-signed Jeremy Hellickson to a one-year $1.3 million deal with incentives that could drive the total as high as $4 million.