The best, worst and most likely options at shortstop

Who will fill in for Francisco Lindor?

James Rapien
February 11, 2019 - 10:12 am
Oct 16, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros left fielder Marwin Gonzalez (9) flips his bat after singling in a run in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox in game three of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Cred

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – We found out about Francisco Lindor's injury on Friday afternoon. The three-time All-Star will miss 7-to-9 weeks with a calf strain. The Indians' offseason was being questioned by fans long before Lindor suffered the injury. Will they become more proactive after finding out that their best player could miss the first few weeks of the regular season?

The thought of Max Moroff, Yu Chang or Eric Stamets playing shortstop in Minnesota on March 28 probably makes you nautious. Unfortunately, this injury makes that a very real possibility. There are other options, which makes the 'best, worst and most likely' game so much fun. 

The Best Option – Manny Machado is technically the best option available, but that isn't happening. Let's be realistic if we're going to do this exercise. Marwin Gonzalez makes the most sense for the Indians. He has the ability to play shortstop, first base and the outfield. In light of Lindor's injury, why not add a player who can add versatility to your roster? Gonzalez could keep things warm at shortstop, while Lindor gets back to 100 percent and then he can move to the outfield and give the Indians' worst position group a boost. 

ESPN's Buster Olney says Gonzalez was looking for a $60 million contract going into the offseason. There's no way he's going to command that type of money. The Indians could offer him a lucrative one-year contract in the $15-17 million range or try to sign him to a three-year, $36 million deal. Both would make sense, given their offseason and Lindor's injury. 

The beauty of signing someone like Gonzalez is it plugs two weaknesses with one signing. The Indians' outfield needs a boost. They also need insurance just in case Lindor isn't ready. His versatility makes the signing worth it. The Indians shouldn't spend a bunch of money on a free agent shortstop that's only going to fill-in when Lindor's out. Gonzalez can do that, but his ability to play outfield sets him apart from the rest of the field. It may be a pipe dream, but signing Gonzalez is something the Indians' front office will, at the very least, have a conversation about.

The Worst Option – Moroff, Chang or Stamets. It's nothing personal, but going from Lindor to one of those three is something this team can't do for an extended period of time. It's fair to say the Indians are still considered the favorite to win the American League Central this season. It's also realistic to look at their roster and realize the margin for error they had last season or two years ago is gone. The Indians aren't going to be able to sleep walk through April. They don't have a bunch of heavy hitters in the lineup that can help replace Lindor's production.

Moroff is a career .193 hitter. Chang and Stamets haven't played in a Major League game. It's one thing to suffer a drop-off from Lindor to an average shortstop. It's another to replace him with an unproven player who's still looking for his first Major League hit. Everyone involved should be worried if any of these three are playing significant time at shortstop.

The Most Likely Option – The Indians signed seven-year veteran Ryan Flaherty to a minor league contract last week. If he has an impressive spring training, he will be the favorite to fill-in for Lindor. Flaherty, 32, hit .217 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 182 plate appearances last year for Atlanta. He played for Baltimore from 2012 to 2017. He will make $800,000 in 2019 if he's added to the 40-man roster. 

Flaherty has the ability to play shortstop, second and third base. He has experience and is the type of bridge player the Indians could rely on. They can survive if he has to start for the first few weeks of the season.

Lindor was given a 7-to-9 week timeline on February 6. Seven weeks would mean he's ready for the start of the season. If he's out for nine weeks, then he would miss the first 11 games of the season. Flaherty isn't a great player, but if he's competent in the spring, then he's got an inside track to making the roster.  

Lindor's injury is just another bump in an Indians' offseason filled with them. No one should expect them to overreact to this news, but signing Gonzalez would ease a lot of fans' minds who are worried about this team going into the season. 

Pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona on Tuesday.