Curtis Granderson's Fractured Forearm: What Next?

US PRESSWIRE

Options abound, all of them on the mediocre side.

As has already been discussed here quite a bit, in the absence of Curtis Granderson, the Yankees have four basic choices, three of which come down to roughly the same thing:

  • Sit out the ten weeks with a patchwork of veterans.
  • Sit out the ten weeks with a patchwork of kids.
  • Sit out the ten weeks with a patchwork of veterans and kids.
  • Make a trade.

Let's dispense with the last first: the kinds of veterans available in a deal will come with a significant penalty attached, be it in the form of what the Yankees would have to give up, what they would have to pay, or how many years they would have to carry that player for after the deal. Even were the Yankees to be simply gifted with an Alfonso Soriano or a Vernon Wells, they would be patching a six-week problem (the regular season portion) with a two-year commitment. Worse, in both cases, you really don't know what you're going to get. Soriano still has something viable left, whereas Wells has been deadly to his own team in both two straight years and three of the last four.

The veterans on hand, particularly Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz, are equally problematic. They just don't hit right-handed pitching enough to be viable regulars (there is an argument that Rivera doesn't hit anyone enough to be a viable anything). They also play weak enough defense that their gloves, combined with likely subpar hitting against right-handers, will actively row the team backwards.

Still, a platoon could be kept in order with the acquisition of a lefty-swinging bat, and that player need not be anything special, just one who could field a bit and have the platoon in his favor. Over at MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes listed some possibilities among outfielders who are out of options, among them Jordan Schafer, Ezequiel Carrera, Casper Wells, Gorkys Hernandez, Jose Tabata, Julio Borbon, and Xavier Paul. This is not an inspiring bunch, but with a few of them, Borbon perhaps, you could imagine a team catching a singles-fueled hot streak for a few weeks, as the Rangers did in his rookie year of 2009. He always looked a bit lost in center, but perhaps in left his speed might play up.

Still, not even those players will necessarily be available for free, or even at all, so we go back to looking inside. Zoilo Almonte swings from both sides of the plate, but with weak plate judgment and low batting averages. .277/.322/.487 while playing at Trenton is impressive in its way, but knock some of that production off to compensate for the difficultly of two promotions and you don't have a great deal left. Melky Mesa clearly has ability, but you wonder if he can hit .220 against big-league pitching. Cuban veteran Ronnier Mustelier is intriguing, with his .324/.378/.497 rates in 150 minor league games, but there is a strange absence of talk about him as a viable major leaguer, and it's not clear if it's simply his age (28), tendency towards contact hitting (with its attendant lack of walks), or the absence of a clear position at which he can play -- his five errors in 90 career games in left field is troubling.

There are also veteran free-agent fill-ins along the lines of Scott Podsednik. Podsednik doesn't produce much even when hitting .300, but he can at least do that and steal a few bases while hitting from the needed side of the plate. The Yankees outfield would resemble something out of the Deadball era most of the time he was out there, but at least there would be a known quantity on hand just in case Mesa or Mustelier didn't look like they could handle the job. In this scenario you wouldn't sign the player just to give him the position, but only to break glass in case of emergency.

The good news to this whole mess is that as bad injuries to starting players go, this one has relatively good timing. Sure, it messes up the whole Curtis-to-left thing, but that could be practiced under game conditions during a minor-league rehab assignment. If Granderson misses the minimum, he could be back in time to get in half of May and the rest of the season. If anything, the greatest damage might have been done to a scenario that was somewhat unlikely anyway -- the Yankees feeling far enough out of it at the trading deadline that they tried to move free-agent-to-be Granderson for prospects. Had he been healthy, he would have had enough time to show that he was over last season's massive second-half tailspin as well as demonstrate proficiency at two positions. Now neither may happen.

Ironically, if they are that far out of it, Granderson's injury will have played a part in putting them there while at the same time making him a less attractive trade commodity. Again, it wasn't likely -- the pitching staff is too good for that, for one thing, but a thin slice of the wheel of fortune just got a little bit thinner.

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