The news of Joey Votto (14 HR, 49 RBI, 52 runs, 5 steals, .342 BA, 1.069 OPS) missing three to four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee may seem like a death blow to some fantasy teams.
After all, who wants the unplanned fantasy assignment of surviving nearly a month without one of baseball's best pure hitters?
But in my mind, this occurrence beats the heck out of Votto bravely (and perhaps needlessly) remaining in the Reds lineup, trying to undue a .214 batting funk, with zero homers, two RBI and low slugging mark (.422) since getting injured on June 29.
If Votto were facing season-ending surgery with his aching knee, I could certainly understand him toughing it out, in hopes of helping Cincinnati (50-39) preserve its slender lead in the National League Central. But just like with Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton, a quick knee scope and a few weeks off could go a long way toward freshening a supreme talent for an August-September-October run.
And if we're to believe the post-op speculation, the Cincy star's return may be closer to three weeks than four. So, we've got that going for us...which is nice.
From a fantasy perspective, there are a few ways to cover Votto's short-term loss:
1. Grab Reds rookie Todd Frazier off waivers and hope that he'll make the most of the batting reps with Cincy, while filling Votto's spot at first base
For what it's worth, Frazier (10 HR, 30 RBI, 25 runs, 1 steal, .278 BA, .913 OPS) has been remarkably consistent this season, having little separation with batting average and OPS from month to month (of course, he'll be feeling more pressure now, in Votto's stead).
2. Acquire first basemen like Justin Morneau, Jordan Pacheco, Casey McGehee, Adam Lind, Chris Davis, Brandon Belt, Carlos Pena or Chris Carter off the waiver wire
As luck would have it, I acquired Minnesota's Morneau (11 HR, 40 RBI, .257 BA) just hours before his Monday breakout against the Orioles (4-for-5, three runs, one run)—a move that had nothing to do with Votto. And Adam Lind, for those who don't follow the Blue Jays with breathless enthusiasm, has five homers, 15 RBI and a .327 batting average since June 18.
3. Facilitate a trade for Michael Cuddyer and his 1B/OF versatility
Without a doubt, Cuddyer (12 HR, 51 RBI, 46 runs, 8 steals, .261 BA) is a fine player in both the real world and fantasy; but this is the perfect time to capitalize on certain owners freaking out over his 30-day numbers (two homers, .207 batting).
Here's something to consider when talking trade: Cuddyer (seven homers, 30 RBI, .275 BA at home this year) plays 17 of his next 29 games at Coors Field.
4. Simply take the best player available off waivers
This final option goes out to the astute owner who purposely stacked his/her roster with corner-infield assets during the draft, or soon thereafter, knowing injuries are a natural part of a looooooooong baseball season.
With this forward-thinking approach, fantasy GMs can then grab a free-agent stud like Royals catcher Salvador Perez (five homers, .371 batting since June 18) or specialized dynamo like Twins outfielder Darin Mastroianni (seven steals, .345 batting since June 18), while promoting someone from the bench into Votto's "1B" slot.
Bottom line: Obviously, GMs would be better off with a healthy Votto than scrambling to fill his gaping hole on a fantasy roster. But three weeks gone is hardly an eternity, fantasy-wise, especially if you were already prepared to absorb the loss of a dominant fantasy figure.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.