You know, it could just be a fluke that the recent injuries to Phil Hughes, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira occurred. On the other hand though, it could reveal a trend and/or a glimpse into as to how the 2013 season will shake out for the New York Yankees. Injuries are a part of every season, sometimes a team gets lucky, but other times, like this Spring Training for the Bombers, they strike quickly and have lasting implications for at least the early season.
This offseason the Yankees held their cards close to their vests and didn’t do much in the way of signing new talent. Their deals for Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki look good right now, but at some point depth was going to be an issue, and that concern is front and center right now. The Yankees lost quite a bit of power in their lineup at least in the early going due to injury, as both Tex and Grandy will be out until mid-May. The club will now have to rely on Youkilis, who is injury-prone himself, to step up and perform in the early-going, making a stressful situation of playing in New York even more pressure-packed.
Many people in the Twittersphere claimed that this is what the Yankees get for not re-signing Nick Swisher. Hindsight is 20/20, and besides, he priced himself out of New York. Paying for four years at $56 million is a ton for a guy who’s age 32. Sure, he’ll have two good years, but then the team is handcuffed paying a declining talent $14 million a year. It’s exactly the situation the Yankees are trying to get away from. Which brings me to my next point about the age of the Yankees.
Age and injuries often have a direct relationship. Player’s bodies break down over time, the constant pounding, the nicks, the cuts, and bruises all take their toll. It’s catching up with the Yankees right now. If the Yankees included the starting nine (with Tex and Grandy in the lineup) with CC Sabathia on the mound, they would only feature two players still in their twenties (Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli, yes I gave him the starting nod).
This is a huge problem going forward. The rotation’s age isn’t much better, as Andy Pettitte is north of age 40, Hiroki Kuroda is pushing age 40, while Hughes and Ivan Nova are hitting their mid-20′s. Sprinkle in Michael Pineda (in his early twenties) and David Phelps and the Yankees have somewhat of a healthy future in the rotation, if Hughes is re-signed, Nova figures it out, and Pineda makes it back from injury.
Let’s not forget that Sabathia is still working back from an injury-plagued 2012 season. It was really the first time he spent any significant time on the disabled list during his career. We all know of Derek Jeter‘s ankle, which he’s now cleared to resume playing. Pettitte also spent significant time on the DL with an ankle injury in 2012, while Gardner and Mariano Rivera spent pretty much the entire season on the DL. Believe it or not, the Yankees are getting older and a bit more frailer, which is a scary prospect going forward.
I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but at some point, as a fan, you need to be a realist. The Yankees are getting old, and while experience counts, being on the field to take advantage of that experience is even more valuable. Tex’s injury concerns me more just because he was told by doctors that it’s a classic case of “overuse,” and wrist injuries have a nasty habit of diminishing power.
All that said, the team will most likely see a drop in production in the early-going, but that’s not to say that recent free agent signings Dan Johnson and Juan Rivera can’t catch lightning in a bottle in April and May and make up for the lost numbers. However, that’s just not all that likely. The real key for the Yanks in the early months is pitching, hopefully they can catch a break by going into Opening Day with a fresh and healthy starting rotation and bullpen. Fingers crossed.