Mark Teixeira’s wrist and the great unknown

Senator Schumer sped up visa paperwork for Masahiro Tanaka
New bench option emerges as Royals cut ties with Bonifacio

Seven months ago today, Mark Teixeira had surgery to repair a torn ECU tendon sheath in his right wrist after a rehab regime failed to strengthen the joint. The Yankees were without their first baseman essentially all of last season and the result was a whopping 86 wRC+ from the position, fourth worst in baseball and by far the worst in the AL (Twins were next at 93 wRC+). The timing of the injury — Teixeira got hurt in early-March during pre-WBC workouts — left them with few alternatives at first.

Teixeira, who turns 34 just after Opening Day, has been rehabbing for months and recently started some light hitting off a tee and soft toss. He had been taking dry swings for weeks and is slated to start hitting against MLB quality velocity (90+ mph) sometime this month. Game action will follow in March. Teixeira acknowledged the wrist is still stiff — “I’m expecting until June, and maybe even through this entire season, it’ll be a little tight,” he said to Dan Barbarisi recently — which isn’t uncommon even this far out from surgery.

The Yankees do not have an obvious backup for Teixeira but I suspect that will work itself out something before Opening Day. My biggest concern right now isn’t necessarily a setback that shelves Teixeira for a few weeks or months, but his actual performance. That’s the great unknown. Will the wrist hamper his power production? Will his left-handed swing be hindered while his right-handed swing is fine? How long will it take to shake off what amounts to a full season of rust?

“My entire career, April has not been my optimal baseball performance,” said Teixeira to Barbarisi. “Then throughout the year, I get stronger, I get better, and that’s the goal, to have 162 good games, not 30 good games … Am I going to go out and say, ‘OK, I’m going to hit this, have so many home runs, this many RBIs in April?’ I have no idea. Nobody has any idea.”

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

As Barbarisi noted in his article, both David Ortiz and Jose Bautista suffered similar injuries and saw their performance slip the following year. Ortiz did not have surgery for a partially torn ECU tendon sheath late in 2008 and then had the worst year of his career in 2009, with reduced power (.224 ISO) and overall effectiveness (100 wRC+). It wasn’t until 2010 that he got back to being the .260 ISO, 150 wRC+ monster he usually is. Bautista went from .322 ISO and 165 wRC+ from 2010-12 to a .239 ISO and 134 wRC+ in 2013 following surgery late last year. He was still obviously very good, but there was a dip in performance.

Wrist injuries are known for sapping power for several months even after the doctor says the player is healed, though only heard that about broken bones (hamate, specifically). Ortiz’s performance in 2009 and beyond fits that timetable and we’ll just have to wait and see how Bautista rebounds this summer. The issue with Teixeira is that his performance had been in decline even before the injury (wRC+ from 2008-12: 152, 142, 128, 124, 116), though his power production was consistently in the .240 ISO range. Given his declining batting average (and subsequently declining OBP), power is Teixiera’s redeeming offensive quality and if that is compromised because of the wrist, he won’t be of much use to the Yankees at the plate in 2014.

I guess the good news, if you want to take it that way, is that the team’s first basemen were so very bad last year that Teixeira almost can’t help but be an upgrade even if the wrist injury saps his power. A perfectly league average hitter will be a big step down for Teixeira but an improvement for the team at first base overall. Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann were brought in to solidify the middle of the lineup (a full year of Alfonso Soriano will help as well) so even without Robinson Cano, the Yankees won’t need Teixeira to carry the load as the cleanup hitter. There are enough bats in the lineup to bat him sixth if his production warrants it. That said, the team can’t afford a half season of Lyle Overbay-esque production at first base either. Teixeira is an important part of the team but it’s impossible to know how much he can contribute this year.

Senator Schumer sped up visa paperwork for Masahiro Tanaka
New bench option emerges as Royals cut ties with Bonifacio
  • Theonewhoknocks

    Give kendrys 1 year $20mil.
    Problem solved

  • Farewell Mo

    Realistically, you’d have to be satisfied with league average hitting with his above average defense.
    Hopefully he doesn’t fall too far off a cliff in these last 3 years on his contract.

    • Dalek Jeter

      I know we don’t agree on much, but I agree 100% here. All I’d like to see from Tex is 1. The ability to play 140 games. 2. ~100wRC+ or better 3. His good defense. 4. To maintain that the next 3 years.

    • Delbert Grady

      Newsflash; He’s already off the cliff. He’s a shadow of the player the Yankees thought they were getting and is headed to be one of their biggest free agent busts. The decline started years ago when he went from elite to ordinary after 2009.

      • jjyank

        In his worst season so far, he threw up a 116 wRC+. I’d hardly call that “off the cliff”. He’s declining, for sure, and he’s definitely not what the Yankees signed up for, sans 2009. But he’s still an above average player.

        Disclaimer: I’m saying this under the assumption that the wrist won’t destroy his season. Until we see his 2014 season play out, I can’t assume that he’ll be below average.

        • Preston

          You have to play to be above average. I think we need to wait until he’s actually on the field to start talking about what kind of player he is.

          • jjyank

            Fair enough. I’m an optimist, so I won’t assume he’ll be below average until I see it.

        • forensic

          Being above average overall offensively is different than being above average as a 1B offensively. League average 1B the last four years has been 112, 112, 107, and 110 wRC+.

          He’s ever so slightly still above average there, but even a slight drop could very easily put him below average there in no time, especially since the side that is more affected by the wrist is the one he’ll bat from most of the time as a switch hitter.

          The only thing keeping him afloat offensively at this point is his power, with his BA and OBP already at or below average. If the power takes a hit with the wrist, there’s big trouble there, even if the defense can still stay good.

          Unfortunately, there just isn’t much they can do about it since he’s completely untradable, extremely expensive, and it’s just not very realistic to carry two 1B who can’t do anything else on the roster.

      • TLVP

        That is just plain wrong – he’s been good for on average 3.3 bWAR per year so far. at $23m that works out to $7m/WAR.

        There is clearly a case that bWAR underestimates his defensive value – 1B is the most difficult position to measure after catcher and he is rated as a below average 1B which clearly is suspect.

        Assuming he puts up 2 WAR per season in the last 3 years and you value a WAR at $7m on average for the 8 years his production will have been worth USD 157.5 compared to a contract of USD 184m. That is not a bust.

        This is unfair in both directions as his WAR was front end loaded (when the price was lower) but the defensive value evens that out.

    • Benedict Cumberbatch

      Soriano, start taking grounders at first.

  • James

    The question isn’t whether Tiexiera will be back to his 40 HR self. The question is why aren’t the Yankees bringing in Replacements for Tiexiera and Jeter just incase ether or god forbid both won’t be anything but a shell of there formal selfs. Kendry Morales and Stephen Drew are both still on the open market and would give the Yankees much needed depth at positions they desperately need. Why aren’t one of the two being heavily courted as Back Up plans for the inevitable need they will have from at least one of the two spots in there line up. Makes no sense. Do they really want to pass the 189 mark to only have another season like last because of Injury again

    • jjyank

      I’m not sure where you’re playing Morales though. On a given day, say you have Ells in CF, Beltran in RF, Gardner in LF, Soriano at DH, and Tex at 1B. How much money are we gonna have to pay Morales to sit on the bench? And why in the world would he want to sign here to sit on the bench?

      This is just greedy Yankee talk here. Drew is another story, and I’m all for signing him, but Morales? He doesn’t really fit.

    • Dalek Jeter

      See what JJ said. Why would either guy, both of whom are in/around their prime, and both of whom have been starters (or at worst platoon) players their entire careers come to a team as free agents to be back ups. This is more directly about Morales than Drew, because while I still personally don’t think Third Baseman Stephen Drew is the best idea, if he’s willing to move off SS he’ll still have plenty of ABs. Morales is a bad defensive First Baseman. You can’t stick a glove like that anywhere else.

      • jjyank

        And how much of a first baseman is he anyways? He only played 31 games there last year (121 at DH) and 28 in 2012 (92 at DH). We don’t really have room for a mostly DH type who can fake first on occasion. In addition to the scenario I mentioned above, you know Jeter’s gonna need some DH time as well, with Soriano, Beltran, and McCann likely rotating through as well.

        Morales just isn’t a fit.

        • Preston

          Morales is only a fit if we trade an OFer. We can’t trade Ells or Beltran, and if we trade Gardner that leaves us relying on a 37 yo and 38 yo to play everyday in the OF corners, or giving significant time to Ichiro. We could trade Soriano, but I’m not sure we’d get much in return, and frankly I think Soriano provides comparable offense, better baserunning, more defensive value at a cheaper price than Morales. And I know at this point we’re only surrendering a 3rd round pick, but I’m not sure we’d get much more than the equivalent value of a third round pick in return for a 38 yo OF on a one year deal.

          • jjyank

            Agreed. Before signing Tanaka, I was down with the Gardner for Bailey idea, but I’d much rather hang on to Gardner now. Soriano and Beltran are both up there in age, and Ellsbury hasn’t been the picture of health either. I think Gardner has more value to the 2014 Yankees than they could get in return, personally.

            So yeah, they could make room for Morales if Gardner (or someone else) is traded, but I’m not sure how much that actually helps the 2014 team.

    • nyyankfan_7

      You ask “why are they not being brought in as backups”?


      Give one reason why Stephen Drew or Morales would take a contract to be someone’s backup? These guys want to play – I guarantee you they would take less money to play 162 games than to make more money not playing everyday.

      Please RAB Universe get it through your heads – not every player WANTS to be a Yankee, they are no longer a 99.9999999% lock to make the post season as they were 15 years ago and even if they were there is no way a perfectly capable every day player is going to take a contract to come to New York and get 200 – 300 at bats.

      • mitch

        Who suggested they sign Drew to backup Tex? They could sign him as their everyday 3B which would free up Johnson to play the utility role for which he’s best suited (including as a potential backup to Tex)

        • Mr. Roth

          Everything that I’ve read says that Drew is resistant to signing anywhere where he won’t be a full time SS.

    • Pasqua

      For all the money the Yankees spend, even they aren’t going to pony up $10-20 million/year contracts to guys so they can be contingency plans. Tex and Jeter are “healthy,” for better or worse. You pay to fill real needs, not hypothetical ones, and then you do what you can when the unexpected happens.

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

      I don’t think The Replacements can man 1B.

      • Paul Westerberg

        Now that I’ve cut down on my drinking , I can.

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

          All my life, waiting for somebody.

    • qwerty

      Backup plans are for pussies.

  • BJ

    If Tex goes down, I’d rather move McCann to first and give some ABs to J.R. Murphy if he’s ready. Or, the backup could be Ronnier, who I’d love to see finally getting some major league reps. They’ve been trying forever to find a way to get his bat up to the Show, but he couldn’t seem to find a position. Why not 1B?

    • jjyank

      Well they’re not trying that hard, considering he didn’t get a spring training invite. Seems like the team’s opinion of him has dropped after last season.

      • Caballo Sin Nombre

        There was zero chance Musty makes the team out of Spring Training, as they are full up on OFs, and a defensively challenged backup 3B is not what they need to fill out the roster. The Yankees think they already have a pretty good idea of what he can do; the latter is not true for some of the other players getting invites. I fully expect Ronnier will show up on the depth charts, get playing time at SWB, and be considered as a mid-season call-up should injuries call for his particular skill set.

  • Delbert Grady

    The Yankees will do business as usual and keep their heads in the sand while spouting back of their baseball card mantras. And Tex will constantly use the media to manage his expectations (bad mentality).

    I don’t expect a legit backup to be brought in. That’s not how they do things here. They hope for the best and never expect the worst (acting shocked when something many saw coming happens) and lately end up paying for that approach.

    While I would sign Morales, I know that’s excessive insurance. But they better have a 1b option that can hit RHP better than Tex because if Girardi stubbornly puts him in the 3-4 hole against RHP we’re cooked. I’d honestly take a Overbay/Reynolds platoon over Tex right now. Thinking McCann is the backup 1b is folly because they brought him here to lead a pitching staff. Maybe in 3 years he’ll play that role, but he wasn’t signed to be Tex insurance. He was signed to be the leader behind the dish.

    • jjyank

      “I’d honestly take a Overbay/Reynolds platoon over Tex right now.”

      In 2013, both Overbay (against RHP) and Reynolds (against LHP) had a 103 wRC+. So even if you platoon them properly, they’re still not as good as Tex’s last full season. Not to mention that Reynolds will be a butcher in the field compared to Tex’s defense.

      The wrist is a little concerning at the moment, but I’m not writing him completely off just yet.

    • qwerty

      Which is precisely why they should have signed Hart, who can play both first and right field. They’re going to need a right fielder after this year anyway.

      • Preston

        And where does Hart play if Tex is healthy. Are you saying we should have signed Hart instead of Beltran?

        • qwerty

          Tex should not have been expected to be healthy this year based on the past history of anyone who has had this surgery. Hart can DH if by some miracle Tex is healthy.

          • Preston

            That is a counter factual statement. He will have had plenty of time to heal from the surgery. The most recent example of someone recovering from the same surgery being Jose Bautista. I’m fine with a healthy dose of pessimism, but that just isn’t based on anything but your expectation that Murphy’s law will prevail. And Hart couldn’t just DH if “miraculously” Tex is healthy because we have 4 everyday OFers in Gardner, Ellsbury, Beltran and Soriano. So there just wasn’t a spot for Hart. And this is even a more ridiculous assertion when you’re saying Teixeira is gauranteed to miss time because he was hurt last year, so we should sign Hart who also missed the entire 2013 season with injury. Just completely inane.

            • qwerty

              YOu’re misunderstanding me. I would never have signed Ellsbury or Beltran in the first place, so there would have been plenty of room for Hart. Hart’s surgeries were minor. They’re not the type that have lingering effects like Teixeira’s wrist problem. At this point, he’s easily the safer bet.

              As for Tex, he’s still feeling the effects of the surgery he had 7 MONTHS ago. Even mark teixeira has said that he expects tightness in the wrist for potentially the entire season. If Tex plays every game and is only 50-75% I don’t consider him healthy, sorry. Not to mention that there could still be complications from the surgery, or tex could have another injury compensating for the wrist. For a measely 6 million I’ll take Hart as insurance any day. Inane indeed.

  • mitch

    This is unfair for me to say, but I wish Tex had a little different attitude toward this whole thing. I know he’s just being realistic and the injury was completely flukey, but he just missed an entire season and still has a ton of money left on his contract. If the team is going to make the playoffs, he’ll need to be a big part of it.

    Legitimate or now, drop the excuses and take some accountability. I hate that he’s already accepting that APril and May might be ugly.

    • Delbert Grady

      Exactly. He does this quite often. Some people look at it as “refreshing honesty” but to me, he sets up a safety net for why he’s not the hitter we signed. I don’t find it refreshing. I don’t ever remember a Yankee star telling the fans to manage expectations for them and to let them off the hook for not performing while making the 2nd highest contract on the team. He’s loaded with excuses. I know a lot of you love the guy, but I don’t. And his sparkling defense isn’t enough for me to let it pass that he’s an awful hitter against RHP now who we have to carry and who Girardi has shown a blind spot for when placing him in the order.

      His contract, for me, can’t end soon enough.

      • Caballo Sin Nombre

        It always irritates me when people read a player’s response to an interviewer’s questions, and then act as though they themselves are having a chat with the player. “Well gee Ted, Yes, I’m going out to give 150%, work through it, and make sure them Yankees win that Championship.” For various reasons, not every player chooses to memorize the pre-programmed idiot card responses that seem to comfort so many readers.

        • Preston

          Jeter recites from that card and people criticize him for it. Nova is delusionally confident about his abilities and people criticize him for that. Teixeira is honest and people criticize him for it. Marshawn Lynch is onto something.

  • Chaning

    This looks at players with similar plate appearances to Tex before and after age-34. It’s not very encouraging.

  • bpdelia

    I admit I’m usually far over on the extreme pessimist side of the spectrum.

    But I’m feeling strangely sanguine about this year.

    Not how I felt going into 2009 but similar to the early 2000s I expect them to be very competitive.

    I’ve just got a really good feeling about Sabathia and this strange feeling texieria is going to be in the 125 wrc+ range.

    I’m feeling .255-.270/.350/501ish. 24-31 hrs.

    Don’t know why but understand that leading universities agree my feelings are correct about 50% of the time .

    • Eselquetodolosabe

      “Sanguine”, great word.
      *walks away to find dictionary !

    • qwerty

      I predict a more realistic wRC of 85.

  • Donald Trump

    Wonder if that almost violent shaking of the bat in his stance has anything to do with why his wrist got screwed

    • Kim Kardashian

      Gary Sheffield sez STFU

      • Donald Trump’s Hair Piece

        Gary Sheffield is a bad ass motherfucker and everybody else is a toff.

  • RetroRob

    Oritz? Come on. Other things were going on.

  • TWTR

    If there is a silver lining, maybe it will help Tex get back to the hitter he was who hit all fields.

  • ajra21

    love teix. had my eye on him for a long time as the next truly very good first baseman for the yankees.

    but this injury is why long contracts are idiotic. paying guys big money past the age of 31 is a mistake nearly every time. we are the only team that can afford to pay a guy more over a shorter period of time. why don’t we do this? we shouldn’t ever being giving out deals longer than 5 years.