Well, we are all of two days into the Yankees’ Spring Training schedule and we already have our first significant injury of the season: after getting plunked on the forearm during an at-bat, Curtis Granderson will miss the next 10 weeks of the season with a fractured forearm. Given that the Yankees have lost 155 homers from last year’s team with the departures of Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez, the Yankees can ill afford to lose Granderson. Combined with the overall lack of outfield depth, a dearth of internal options, and poor trade choices, it would appear that the injury, even if it only costs a month, could be a highly problematic issue for the Yankees as they look to fill a now-vacant position.
One of the big issues is the overall lack of depth that the Yankees have internally. While Brett Gardner will slide over into center field (an option that was probably going to happen for the season, and should have happened a long time ago with his defensive ability/Granderson’s comparative lack thereof), there will still be a void in left field, which is further offensively exacerbated by the surprisingly light-hitting outfield that the Yankees would have planned to have this year.
Internally, the options are slim: Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera probably had the inside track for getting the fourth outfielder spot prior to the injury, but have limited defensive ability. Though the chances that they will make the team have increased, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these two will be helpful- in fact, they might be a liability defensively, even with the defensive prowess of Gardner doesn’t the situation. Eduardo Nunez is not an option either, having already been declared an infield utility player by Brian Cashman earlier in the off-season. Further, for those who have kept tabs on the farm system, Slade Heathcott is still a long ways away, despite his very strong showing in the Arizona Fall League this past autumn.
Externally, there are always options to be had. Ironically, this may have been exactly the sort of situation that Chris Dickerson could have useful in before the Yankees released him earlier in the year: a short-term solution, inexpensive player who was already on the 40-man roster, negating the need for a roster move. While he isn’t exactly a Gold Glove outfielder, he would not have embarrassed himself, either, and is familiar with the outfield after playing in New York during limited action the last two seasons. Additionally, he did hit .273/.354/.891 in (an admittedly small sample size of) 85 games while wearing pinstripes. Having Dickerson would have been a perfect solution; his release earlier in the season obviates such a point, but it’s worth discussing.
Another option could be former Yankee second baseman (remember that?!) Alfonso Soriano, who is currently playing for the Cubs. At first blush, Soriano could be a relatively attractive option- an aging left-fielder who can hit and still play some defense. Added bonus: with a no-trade clause and a bloated contract, he can’t necessarily be moved otherwise, so he could probably come cheap with the Cubs picking up most of the tab. Soriano had a resurgence of sorts last year, hitting .262./.322/.499 with 32 homers and 108 RBI. However, the Cubs are in the process of rebuilding, and it’s unlikely that Theo Epstein- with his Red Sox roots- would give up such a piece without asking for at least a decent prospect in return, particularly if they eat a large portion of a bad contract. Given the relatively thin MLB-ready talent in the Yankees’ system, a trade wouldn’t necessarily match up.
Further, there is the added complexity of giving up a potentially valuable piece (read: affordable in the $189 million world the Yankees are operating in) for what would translate to roughly 30 games. If the Yankees can stay afloat for that long, and there is nothing to suggest that they couldn’t, with the rest of the season to make up ground, making this move doesn’t necessarily make sense.
Another option that has been floated around has been Vernon Wells, and I cannot say this emphatically enough: no. Just, no. To start, he is signed through 2014, which would mean that a 30-game solution now becomes a two year albatross, and the Yankees have quite enough of those going around. To trade for Wells would be an overreaction of embarrassing proportions. In an astoundingly low 77 games in 2012, Wells only hit .230/.279/.403 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI. For that sort of production, the Yankees could use any raw prospect in their system and avoid the trade and roster move associated with a move. That said, here is the interesting part: in 2012, Wells’ Rtot/yr was a 6; while he was horrific as a center-fielder and right-fielder (-32 and -12 in that metric, respectively), he was serviceable as a left-fielder, with a 10 rating in 67 games. For comparisons sake, Ryan Braun came in with a 1 rating in Rtot/yr at that same position in 151 games in left field in 2012; Raul Ibanez had a 2 rating in 40 games. All in all, the benefits of this move would in no way outweigh the negatives- contract, offensive production, wasted roster spot- that trading for Wells would accomplish. Again, I actually cannot put into words have ridiculous and awful a move this would be for the Yankees, it’s worth pointing out because it will inevitably a topic of conversation over the next few days.
At the end of the day, it will probably end up being that the Yankees will sit tight with what they have internally, and some guy who had an outside shot at playing in the Bronx now has a much better chance of doing so. A move could potentially shore up the situation, but it isn’t necessarily a need. Remember, while it seems like a significant period of time, it isn’t even March yet.
This injury will only really translate into 30 real games for the Yankees. No move would benefit the team enough to outweigh the cost, particularly if Granderson will only miss 30 games and will return to form with the rest of the season still to go. However, it is worth remembering (despite the mitigating factors of age and injury history) that this is the same injury that Alex Rodriguez sustained in 2012, and he was offensively never the same. For the Yankees’ sake, they need to hope that Granderson is a quick healer and can quickly return to form offensively, or else making a move might suddenly become a necessity that the Yankees can’t get around.