GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Andrés Giménez has been in contention to be the Tribe’s Opening Day shortstop since he was acquired from the Mets in the Francisco Lindor trade on Jan. 7. But because the Indians received two Major League shortstops in the deal (also acquiring Amed Rosario), there was always a question of whether Giménez would start 2021 in the Minors so the team could gain an extra year of control. But now, maybe that won’t be the case.
Major League Baseball informed teams on Tuesday that the start of the Triple-A season will be delayed by a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means in April clubs will again be utilizing an alternate training site that’s within 100 miles of the big league team. The Indians are working to finalize Columbus as their site.
“The reason it needs to be within driving distance is those players will be players who will have significant overlap with the Major League players,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “So it’s important that that group, for the time being, not be on commercial airlines whenever we can avoid it. So the idea is to have the alternate site be within driving distance so any time players go up or down, it can be ground transportation rather than public air transportation.”
So the question now becomes: Will the Indians be willing to have Giménez be at the alternate training site for a month before the Triple-A season gets underway? It’s early in Spring Training, but the 22-year-old has wasted no time in showcasing his skills. He’s played in two Cactus League games and has been awarded the team’s MVP honor in each of those, going 4-for-4 with a triple, homer and three RBIs while providing excellent defense and being successfully aggressive on the basepaths.
“I think that’s entirely my style of game, being aggressive on the basepaths,” Giménez said through an interpreter. “My mindset is always trying to get an extra base when possible. The way to do that is being aggressive on the bases. And it’s been reinforced here with the team plenty of times that that’s the way we should be running the bases, but it’s been part of my game.”
There’s a reason that Mets president Sandy Alderson said that the Indians were adamant in receiving Giménez in the Lindor trade, and the young shortstop has made quite the first impression. But Giménez is battling with Rosario for the shortstop job.
Rosario has more Major League experience, owning a career slash line of .268/.302/.403 in 403 games over four seasons. Giménez made his debut in 2020, hitting .263 with a .732 OPS in 49 games. He may have played in only two spring games thus far, but he’s doing what he can to prove he’s ready to make the big league roster.
Teams can carry up to 28 players at the alternate training sites, according to Antonetti, and they’re working through the possibility of playing against teams that are within driving distance. However, that idea still needs to be approved by MLB. Clubs had their first experience with the alternate sites in 2020, when the Minor League season was canceled due to the pandemic. Now, the hope is they will only need to be utilized for the first month of the '21 season.
“It’s not ideal, but I’m optimistic and hopeful that we’re going to get the bulk of the Minor League season in,” Antonetti said. “I’m hopeful that the accelerated availability of vaccines will be here soon and that will allow us to have a more regular Minor League season than we did last year.”
Although Rosario only played one game in the outfield for the Mets, perhaps a move there could be a possibility. So with the chance that shortstop could be open, if the Triple-A delay could be looked at as a positive for anyone, it may be Giménez.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure [in winning the shortstop job],” Giménez said. “As I mentioned in previous interviews, my focus is not on competing against anybody, my focus is on competing against myself and improving myself every day, and in that way, I can contribute to make the team better.”