Feb
25

Curtis Granderson, patience, and vulnerability

By
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

It took all of ten Spring Training innings for the Yankees to suffer the inevitable injury that exposed their … well … vulnerability to injury. Because the baseball gods have a twisted sense of humor, it wasn’t one of the team’s older or injury prone players who got hurt. It was the young-ish and generally durable Curtis Granderson, who will miss the next ten weeks thanks to an errant J.A. Happ pitch and a fractured right forearm. Assuming everything heals well, he’ll return to the team in early-May.

The injury takes a huge bite out of New York’s lineup, obviously. Granderson is one of the game’s premier power hitters and that just can’t be replaced. Joe Girardi will have to get a little more creative in an effort to generate runs, which is something I’m sure he’ll enjoy. The speed of Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner will be that much more important, ditto the continued health of Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis. Those two have combined for nine (!) DL trips in the last three seasons, but the Yankees have no choice but to keep their fingers crossed and hope they stay on the field through April.

Despite the initial shock of Granderson’s injury, the Yankees do have time on their side. Opening Day is still more than a month away and the club does have some internal options to audition in camp. None of them are particularly appealing to me outside of multi-threat/contact-challenged Melky Mesa, but they might as well give the Zoilo Almontes and Ronnie Musteliers and the like a chance. It’s not like other clubs are going to start offering up their spare outfielders out of the kindness of their heart, quite the opposite will happen. Trade prices have suddenly skyrocketed and now isn’t the time for desperation.

Brian Cashman has been on the job a long time, so he’s been here before. The Yankees lost Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield to significant injuries in the span of about two weeks back in May 2006, but it wasn’t until the trade deadline that Cashman acquired Bobby Abreu. Melky Cabrera got his chance and took advantage (.360 OBP and 98 wRC+), which is what the Yankees could use now. Outside of Mesa or Almonte running into some fastballs and having a Shane Spencer-esque month, they’re not going to be able to replace Granderson with a power hitter. Someone who can get on-base at a decent clip and not embarrass himself defensively is typical stopgap stuff. Cashman has always been patient in these situations and wouldn’t expect anything different now.

The Yankees have a pretty small margin of error this season, so the impact of Granderson’s injury is more dramatic than it would have been a year or two ago. The Bombers got worse this offseason while other clubs in the division improved, meaning the AL East might be a four-team race instead of the usual two or three. If Jeter’s ankle takes longer to heal than expected, or Ichiro turns back in to the pumpkin he was from 2011 through the 2012 trade deadline, or one of Hafner or Youkilis gets hurt, the Yankees are going to have a very serious problem on their hands. Then again, so would most teams who lost multiple regulars. New York is more vulnerable because of their age and division though, a problem that has been exposed before the calendar even flipped to March.

Categories : Offense
  • BJ

    I continue to maintain that giving Mustelier or Adonis Garcia is the best bet here. They’re not on the 40 man, which does create some difficulty, but they’re really not “prospects” anymore, and have both hit enough in the high minors that they should have proven themselves for a big league tryout. They’d certainly both bring more to the plate than Melky Mesa.

  • Preston

    I don’t agree that the AL East is a tougher division this year than in previous years. I don’t think teams improved, I think the Blue Jays improved. The Rays made some nice moves but adding Wil, Myers, Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson and James Loney won’t make up for the loss of B.J. Upton and James Shields. The Orioles lost Mark Reynolds and added nothing, and were bound to regress anyways. And the Red Sox are only improved if you look at their roster at the end of the 2012 season instead of the start of it. Losing Curtis will hurt, but even if he missed the whole season I think we’re the second best team in the AL East. If he comes back by late May and contributes I think we’ll be fine.

    • Havok9120

      The O’s should have full seasons of some of the young-uns and other add-ons from last season though. That could/should be an improvement.

      Still shouldn’t make up for the regression that should happen. Should should should. We need games.

  • Now Batting

    Everyone is worried, rightfully, about age and injury. Yet here we are two games into spring training and Hughes has a bulging disc to go along with Granderson’s broken forearm. Ugh.

  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

    I wouldn’t mind giving up a decent prospect to get Soriano. Would anyone really miss Betances?

    • jjyank

      Probably not, but I’m not sure if the Cubs would call Betances a decent prospect.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      Does Bettances still qualify as a decent prospect?
      Not sure he’s someone the Cubs would eat a lot of Soriano’s contract for.

    • Preston

      I doubt that would get it done

    • JLC 776

      I hate that Soriano is considered an outfielder!

      • http://Twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Mark Teixeira – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

        Didn’t he lead all qualified LF’s in URZ, and only had 1 error all season. I don’t think he passes the sniff test as a good defensive OF but I personally think Ibanez was much worse last year.

  • jjyank

    I’d give the spot to Mustelier. I’m not really very high on him, but the guy has hit, and hit better with more experience at AAA than Almonte and Mesa.

    I could be convinced to change my opinion to Mesa though. If Mustelier doesn’t hit, he’s not helping. At least Mesa would provide some speed and good defense if he doesn’t hit. Still though, I’d see what Mustelier can do first.

    All this provided that he doesn’t crap the bed in camp, of course.

    • Nice Guy Eddie

      Id like to see ronnier get the job, but if spring ended right now id probably go with Juan Rivera. Either way though, those guys are going to need a lh complement. Anyone have an idea on lh of bats that could be available at the end of strong?

      • Havok9120

        Thing is though, one of Rivera/Diaz was almost certainly gonna make the roster anyway. There’s another slot open now.

        • jjyank

          Yeah, I was operating under the assumption that the winner of that competition would have been on the team anyway. I suppose both can make it now.

    • trr

      If he shows enough in S/T , I agree. I’d prefer to see LF go to one of the younger players rather than some awful Diaz/Rivera rotation… now there’s a bottom of the line-up to strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers….8. Diaz/Rivera; 9. Stewart/Cervelli

      • Havok9120

        Is Mesa followed by Cervelli really any better?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I agree. I’d rather see the younger player get the everyday slot and Diaz/Rivera remain in the slot they were signed to play.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Wow, Mike, I channeled you almost verbatim in a couple of posts this morning, mentioning that Mesa might “run into a fastball now and then” and asking “Where is Shane Spencer when you really need him?” Scary.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    At least we have a crazy, unexpected outfield competition to get is though this obscenely long spring

  • Murderers’ Row Boat

    I wonder how many times one has to say “He will be back in May” before people start realizing that he’ll be back in May?

    • Gonzo

      I had someone tell me I was wrong about May. He swore it was mid-June at the soonest.

      • Now Batting

        Best case scenario is he’s back in May. There’s no guarantees. See: Gardner, Bret

      • Havok9120

        Is he Catholic? He might just be fooling himself into thinking Lent is already over.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        It’s not outside the realm of possibility that, if rehab goes slower, it’s June. That’s not technically wrong.

        Also, A-Rod will be back in April, you numbskull.

        *ducks*

        • Gonzo

          The A-Rod comment made me laugh. Good job.

    • Mike HC

      Lets hope the injury doesn’t sap his power for a little while. Even if he does come back right on schedule, I would personally lower my expectations for what I thought would be a very strong season for Granderson.

  • djyan

    i vote adonis garcia. he’s 26. may break out. anyone else think this is more exciting than melky in 06?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Gracias, Senora Garcia. So sabia que habias salido de Cuba. La verdad es que, fuera de usted, nadie piensa que so hijo va a jugar para los Yanquis este ano. Saludos a la familia.

      • jjyank

        Yo quiero Taco Bell?

        • Robinson Tilapia

          It’s a good thing you’re not an expert on the Caribbean. ;)

          • jjyank

            Al-lughati al-arabiyya waa ana sanasafar ela al-jezar al-Cayman al-usbuoah al-maqubil.

            (My arabic language and I are travelling to the Cayman Islands next week)

            I’m sure that’ll do me a lot of good.

            • Havok9120

              If only those damn Brits had imported people from the East Indies instead. Then you’d at least have a chance.

  • JLC 776

    Shane Spencer… Ricky Ledee… Mel Hall… we have to have the 2010s version somewhere, right? Right???

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Too bad Rookie Davis isn’t a position player. He totally has a breakout kind of name.

  • Mike HC

    I would definitely like to see a trade, as we could use a right handed outfield bat even if we did have Granderson. Like you say though, that is easier said than done, and I might be wrong but I don’t really remember many legitimate players getting traded in Spring Training and/or first month of the season.

    With no Granderson, Tex’s chronic slow starts, Jeter pushing himself to even be ready by opening day and no starting catcher, my excitement for the start of baseball season has officially been compromised. I guess this season will be all about the second half with Granderson’s return to form, ARod’s return and Pineda hopefully making his Yankees debut.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I said this before but, at this point, there’s only so much I feel the team should go do in order to scrounge up a few extra wins for 6-8 weeks by trading from the farm system and would really rather they take the risk with an internal option. It’ll be the team’s best opportunity to see if the guys on the depth chart before you get to the top prospects actually are pieces worth looking at. We lived through Erick Almonte and Cody Ramson. We can live through worse. There’s no fix that is going to match Curtis’s production.

    The only move from the outside I’d make is to look into a DeWayne Wise type – guys who were basically put on this earth for fill-in situations.

    Like “Catcher Warz?” Well, it’s time for “LF WARZ! ZOILO! RONNIE! MELKY! Yes, you, THOMAS NEAL! COME ON DOWN!”

    • jsbrendog

      cody ramson – best typo ever

      • Robinson Tilapia

        It’s no Sam Pearce.

        • Havok9120

          Pants Lendelton?

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Best ever. Long live Pants Lendleton.

  • Eddard: Back and better than never

    We’ll have less power but also less strikeouts. This team needs to harness the power of hitting for contact and I think we can do that this year with the additions of Ichiro and Youk and the return of Gardner. Speed is undervalued nowadays and the Yankees would be wise to get younger, quicker and more agile or we’ll face the same fate as the old and brittle Phillies did last year.

    • Mike HC

      Granderson was a pretty quick player, so I don’t see how this makes us faster. And although he was a poor centerfielder last year, he could probably be an above average left fielder, so I also think we are worse on defense until he returns. And the team was already low on power compared to past years, so losing Granderson hurts even more there too.

  • JLC 776

    If they Yankees are to make a trade with the Cubs for an outfielder, make it Matt Szczur (pronounced ‘Caesar’). The Villanova grad in me demands this.

    • TomH

      Why not pronounced “Shchore”? Is “Caesar” his pronunciation? If so, that would settle it.

      • JLC 776

        Yup – ‘Caesar’ (as in the Roman General/Emperor/salad).

        • Havok9120

          If we were talking Romans then it would be Kai-zar. The Germans knew what was up.

          /pitifulexcuseforlanguageskilz’d

          • Havok9120

            For the record, I was mocking my own pitiful excuse for language skills. I only just realized that that was not clear.

            Don’t hurt me.

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      As an AppState grad, I hate that guy. As a Yankee fan, I’d love to see him run.

    • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

      *offended*

  • RetroRob

    They can ride out the first month and a week with internal options. It’s not idea, but in the unpredictable world of baseball, they might win more games. Granderson could have got off to a bad April and hit. .190, while whatever they come up with might hit .300. This is short term in baseball when anything can happen. Shouldn’t plan on it, but shouldn’t panic either.

    • RetroRob

      It’s not *ideal*

  • TomH

    I join those opposed to taking pains to trade for someone. Better to just tough it out for April and (I suspect) early May, in the hope that some youth movement guy (or guys) comes through to mitigate the Granderson loss.

    To go for a trade now is not just to lose your shirt, it’s to take it off and give it to someone. Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to find a GM in equally miserable circumstances whose needs match up with those of the Yankees. Giving up anyone young and good seems justifiable only if you’re strengthening the team rather than patching a hole for a few weeks.

    Still, it’s really irritating to see how quickly management’s failure to strengthen the team these past months has now come back to kick it in its pinstriped ass. It would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall when Girardi and Cashman met after Sunday’s game.

    • Manny’s Banwagon

      It would be interesting to have been a fly on the wall when Girardi and Cashman met after Sunday’s game.

      “Brian, you ignorant slut, What the hell am I supposed to do now. Maybe instead of chasing tail and pretending you were spiderman all winter , you could have gotten me a decent 4th outfielder other than Matt ” I can’t pronounce my own fucking name” Diaz or Juan stinking Rivera. Unless you want me to stick your little prematurely balding midget ass out there, I suggest you find me a left fielder. “

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I will admit that the Dye-az pronounciation has always driven me batshit.

        • Havok9120

          More ammunition to use against you.

  • mitch

    I think they’ll be okay for a month with one of the kids replacing Grandy. They should focus on finding an upgrade for the Diaz/Rivera role. That’s a season long role, and i hate to bank on the hope that one of them isn’t as washed up as they appear.

  • Zach

    Don’t know why maybe its wishful thinking but I feel if Zoilo Almonte gets the shot he’ll have a Robinson Cano type first year (Not as good obviously) but something like .265/.310/.420 with 3-5 Homers in April and that would be fine by me. They say he is a future everyday OF why not let him have a shot? Other players have made the jump from AA to MLB with no AAA.

    • Havok9120

      That line would be quite fine by me. I am curious who has labled Zolio a future everyday OF though.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

        Cashman

        http://yankees.lhblogs.com/201.....man-notes/

        “We have future everyday right fielder scouting grades on him,” Cashman said.

        • Havok9120

          Hmm.

          I’d be quite happy with that but…yeah.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          “Wait….when the hell did I hire a scout named Brian S.?” – Also Brian Cashman.

          Obviously, I hope he’s right.

  • Tom

    If a trade is to be made it should be for catcher which is a potential long upgrade over a 5-6 week upgrade. (of course if it iis someone good they’ll still get time as a 4th OF/DH)

    I think when you have an injury the knee jerk reaction is to get that production (or some of it) from a replacement at that position. If another position caan be upgraded just as much (and will have a longer term impact when Grandy gets back) that might be the better way to go.

    I know catchers are a bit harder to come by, but if the Yankees are going to give up a decent prospect to find an OF, I’d think they’d be better off targetting a catcher. You also will potentially not pay the “desperation” premium

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      “I know catchers are a bit harder to come by”

      That’s the big issue. C’s that are definite upgrades over what they have are very hard to come by.

      “You also will potentially not pay the “desperation” premium”

      Not sure this is true, considering the dearth of quality C’s. Seems like getting a good C will always require a premium.

      • Tom

        The bar isn’t all that high though…. wouldn’t any OF that provides an appreciable value for 5-6 weeks of production also be hard to come by?

        A 5 WAR OF is putting up maybe ~1 WAR in that timeframe and that also is very hard to come by. If they can get 1/2 win upgrade at catcher (which isn’t all that high a bar), it would be about the same as getting a league average OF for 5-6weeks – the problem obviously is correctly identifying that given the variabiliy in catcher production.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

          Possible. I’m not sure of any C that’s a clear upgrade at C that is even available at this point though. I’m also assuming that any significant OF (or even just league average OF) they would look to acquire would provide more than just 5-6 weeks of production.

          I’m really not expecting any significant move either way though.

  • mick taylor

    why not give johnny damon a shot

    • lou in the bronx

      With his spaghetti arm?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Wouldn’t a guy named Lou in the Bronx like some spaghetti?

  • lou in the bronx

    I love spaghetti. I’m actually cookin some up if ya wanna come ovah.

  • Michael H.

    Holler at my fellow App State grad!

  • Grover

    Though the outfield is left handed and Hafner is set as the left handed dh, there is still a need for one more left handed bat off the bench to pinch hit later in games when whoever is catching is on deck. Damon might not be a bad signing as he would take the minimum.

  • Ryan

    I know I am late here but how about Nunez in left? Like Yogi said they need to have him in the line-up and his arm is to inaccurate for the infield. Throw him out there and let him learn.