Indians pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Tuesday in Goodyear, Ariz. Position players are scheduled to report on Feb. 16. The regular season opens on March 28 at Target Field in Minneapolis.
The best case scenario for the Tribe would have Lindor missing the first week or so of the season. But it would not be a surprise if they add another middle infielder before camp gets underway.
The Indians have spent the winter purging payroll with most of the moves directed toward the offense. Lindor and Jose Ramirez were expected to carry the offense this season so this injury cannot be welcomed news in the executive offices at Progressive Field.
If Lindor is unable to open the season — he’s going to have to go through a fast-track version of spring training no matter when he returns — who is going to play shortstop? The Indians traded their backup shortstop, Erik Gonzalez, to the Pirates in November.
They do have options on the roster. Ramirez could move from third to shortstop, but that’s a long shot. Prospects Yu Chang and Eric Stamets, who shared time at shortstop last season at Class AAA Columbus, will be in camp. Utility man Max Moroff, acquired from the Pirates in the Gonzalez deal, played six games at short last year. Infielder Mike Freeman, who will be in camp on a minor league deal, played 58 games at shortstop in the minors for the Cubs last year. Veteran infielder Ryan Flaherty will also be in camp on a minor league deal. Flaherty has played sparingly at short in his seven-year career.
In a statement the Indians said Lindor suffered the injury working out over the weekend in Orlando, his offseason home. He told James Quinlan, Indians’ head athletic trainer, Monday and he was examined on Wednesday at the Clinic.
Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes and Yandy Diaz were among the hitters the Indians traded this winter. Outfielders Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall and third baseman Josh Donaldson left through free agency as the Indians worked to reduce their franchise-record $135 million payroll from last year.
Lindor is coming off his best season. The switch-hitter, driving the offense from the leadoff spot, batted .277 (183-for-661) with 129 runs, 42 doubles, 38 homers and 92 RBI. He stole 25 bases in 35 attempts and posted a career-high .871 OPS. In the ALDS, he was one of the few Indians’ hitters who had success against Houston, batting .364 (4-for-11) with two homers and two RBI.
In January Lindor was eligible for arbitration for the first time. Lindor and the Indians settled on a one year-deal worth $10.55 million.
Indians sign OF Matt Joyce
Free agent outfielder Matt Joyce, who played the last two seasons in Oakland, has signed a minor-league contract with the Cleveland Indians and will be invited to big league camp at spring training.
Joyce, an 11-year veteran, announced the move via Twitter on Friday morning.
Joyce hit 25 home runs and drove in 68 runs in 2017 but played in only 83 games last season while battling back injuries. The left-handed hitting outfielder earned $6 million last season in the final year of a two-year $10 million contract with the Athletics.
Joyce will earn $1.25 million if he makes the big league club and could add $500,000 in incentives per a report from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
Prior to joining Oakland, Joyce spent six seasons in Tampa Bay where he slugged .435 with 76 home runs and 280 RBI, earning an All-Star bid in 2011.
Joyce, 34, has experience playing both corner outfield positions, and has played center field in a pinch. His defensive range is limited, but he could fit nicely in a platoon with right-handed hitting Jordan Luplow, who was acquired from Pittsburgh in an earlier offseason trade.
The Tampa, native will be looking to erase a woeful 2018 that saw him hit just .208 in 246 plate appearances with seven home runs, 53 strikeouts and a .675 OPS. When healthy, Joyce averages around 19 home runs and 63 RBI per season, production that the Indians outfield would certainly welcome.
The Indians are looking for Joyce to provide veteran stability and consistency on a team that has gotten a lot younger in the offseason. He will compete for a spot with Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin, Luplow and Brandon Barnes, as well as a host of minor leaguers including Trayce Thompson, Daniel Johnson and Oscar Mercado.
Fangraphs.com projects Joyce to hit a handful of home runs and drive in about 14 with a batting average of .232 in a little more than 30 games in 2019. But if Joyce is able to mimic the past performances of veterans such as Rajai Davis (35 steals in 2016) and Austin Jackson (.869 OPS in 2017), he could prove another valuable pickup by president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff.