Aug. 18: Springer has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 sprain in his left knee, the Blue Jays announced. While it’s encouraging that he’s dealing with a low-grade sprain, it’s still not clear when the Jays expect him to be able to return to the field.
Aug. 17: The Blue Jays are placing outfielder George Springer on the 10-day injured list with a sprained left knee, manager Charlie Montoyo announced to reporters (Twitter link via TSN’s Scott Mitchell). Springer recently complained of discomfort in his knee, and an MRI revealed the current issue. There’s no timetable being provided for his return at the moment. Toronto is calling up infield/outfield prospect Otto Lopez to replace Springer on the active roster.
It’s a major blow to the Blue Jays, particularly given the lack of timeline on Springer’s return. The 31-year-old slugger inked a franchise-record six-year, $150MM contract with the Jays over the winter and has spent considerable time on the IL this season owing to a prior quadriceps strain. He’s looked every bit like the high-end slugger the Jays hoped to be acquiring when he’s been healthy enough to take the field, however; in 49 games and 211 plate appearances, Springer has posted a .269/.362/.610 batting line with 16 home runs, 12 doubles, a triple and a pair of steals.
Springer’s return to the injured list likely means the Jays will go with a combination of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez, Corey Dickerson and Lopez between the outfield and designated hitter slots in the lineup. The trio of Gurriel, Grichuk and Hernandez was quite productive early in the 2021 campaign while Springer mended that quad injury, but Grichuk’s bat has wilted considerably over the past couple months. Still, he’s the only real center field option on the roster at present, although the Jays could select the recently acquired Mallex Smith to the MLB roster as an alternative.
Lopez, 22, ranks as the Blue Jays’ No. 23 prospect over at FanGraphs and has enjoyed a strong season split between Double-A and Triple-A. In 359 plate appearances, mostly coming in Double-A, he’s slashed .324/.398/.451 with three home runs, 25 doubles, three triples and a dozen stolen bases (in 15 tries).
Springer’s new injury comes at a time when the Jays are nine games over the .500 mark but nevertheless eight games behind the division-leading Rays in the American League East. They’re a more manageable four games out of the hunt for the second AL Wild Card spot. The loss of Springer, even for a short time, puts a serious dent in their hopes of overcoming that deficit. Eleven of Toronto’s next 15 games come against clubs with sub-.500 records, but Springer’s absence will surely be quite palpable.