Another week filled with injuries to key players gives us the opportunity to speculate away at how the affected teams will fill the new holes on their roster.
How do the Dodgers replace Zack Greinke, who (as tweeted by the Dodgers) will miss approximately eight weeks with a fractured collarbone? How about the Blue Jays, with the Associated Press reporting they could be without Jose Reyes for up to three months because of a severely sprained ankle (h/t ESPN)? The Angels' Jered Weaver will also be out for four to six weeks with a fractured left elbow.
These players simply cannot be replaced. Their teams will have to try and make do with what they have while keeping a close eye on the trade market to see if something makes sense.
Here’s a closer look at each situation.
Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers
I knew there was a reason the Dodgers had so many starting pitchers! They’ll have the option of moving Chris Capuano to the rotation now or activating Ted Lilly from the disabled list to take the open spot.
They’ve already traded Aaron Harang, so I doubt either Capuano or Lilly is on the trade block any longer. Acquiring another pitcher who is a better option this early in the season is nearly impossible, so you can probably expect the Dodgers to stand pat.
Remember that they still have one of the best pitchers in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, leading a pretty good rotation of Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
No team in baseball is prepared to lose a player of Greinke’s caliber. But the Dodgers had plenty of starting pitching depth and now they'll have to use every bit of it in order to compete in the NL West.
Jose Reyes, Toronto Blue Jays
Maicer Izturis, who hasn’t gotten the best reviews defensively while filling in at third base for Brett Lawrie, now likely becomes the primary shortstop with Reyes out. The 32-year-old switch-hitter hasn’t hit much either (5-for-25) nor is he the most durable player.
The Jays could turn to Triple-A shortstop Ryan Goins, who had a .745 OPS in Double-A last season and was added to the 40-man roster in November. It would be a tough task, however, to break into the big leagues while the Jays have grand expectations of winning the AL East.
After a quick glance around the league, I can find just three realistic trade targets: Ronny Cedeño of the Astros, Cliff Pennington of the Diamondbacks and Dee Gordon of the Dodgers. None of the three have great trade value, but their team might not be motivated to make a trade this early in the season unless the Jays want to overpay.
Teams might be willing to part with their starting shortstops later in the season if they fall out of contention, but Reyes should be back before the trade deadline.
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
The last-place Angels have won just two of their first 10 games and it will be hard to climb out of this early hole without Weaver. His replacement, 24-year-old Garrett Richards, has the potential to give the team several quality starts in his place. He’s been pitching out of the bullpen, but he did toss 6.1 innings in a spring start on March 23rd, yielding only one run, three hits and one walk while striking out five.
Even if Richards comes through, the rest of the rotation has struggled and the Angels might have to consider an aggressive run at a starter who may be available in a trade.
The problem is that they don’t have a lot in the minors and most teams aren’t willing to trade away a big league starter right now. Looking into a free agent-to-be who could benefit from a change of scenery might be the best route. Tim Lincecum of the Giants fits that description well.
If the Angels would be willing to give up one of their top position player prospects, possibly first baseman C.J. Cron or second baseman Taylor Lindsey, and eat the remaining portion of the $22 million he's getting paid this season, the Giants might consider giving up the two-time Cy Young Award winner.