When the 2013 season began, Curtis Granderson's return seemed like anything but a problem. The outfield was missing its biggest offensive threat and with so many injuries depleting the lineup, it seemed like Granderson's broken arm couldn't heal fast enough. We were left to depend on Vernon Wells to be who he hadn't been in quite some time, Brett Gardner needed to bounce back from missing nearly an entire season, and Ichiro Suzuki needed to prove that he was the player he was after the trade last season and not before. Then April happened.
For a while to begin the season, Ichiro looked like he'd be the odd man out. He was able to hold his own defensively, but he was a complete mess at the plate. Now Ichiro is hitting and it would be difficult to justify taking him out of the lineup when he provides one of the best arms in the outfield. But you can't bench Gardner so easily, either. The man covers more ground in the outfield than most people could dream of. Anytime he gets on base, the threat of him running is enough to get pitchers to make mistakes and pitch to the rest of the lineup a little differently than they might without RoadRunner standing off to their left. Then there is Vernon Wells, who has a legitimate claim for being one of the more valuable Yankees so far in 2013, and one of the better moves of Brian Cashman's offseason. The people who wanted this man around were few and far between, allowing the Yankees to acquire him for pennies. He's rewarded their faith - or desperation - by hitting better than most could have expected him to. No way you bench him, right?
Benching any of these guys seems like you'd be taking away a vital part from a well-oiled machine that, despite all odds, has been working pretty darn well. It's not as though Curtis Granderson can't add to that - he's hitting very well in his rehab appearances - but how do you take away the least from what is working to fit him in? Vernon Wells is the only one you could even consider relegating to DH duty against lefties, because all the others are left-handed; and you aren't benching Travis Hafner, who has been another vital part of the Yankees' success so far. The Yankees have to decide what they can subtract in order to add Granderson without subtracting too much.
I don't know what the right answer is. Based on the fact that Granderson has exclusively played the corner outfield positions in his rehab, I'd guess that the answer comes down to Wells or Ichiro. What would you do if you were Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman? Which current Yankee outfielder would you put on the bench in favor of Curtis Granderson?
If there is one thing we can at least feel good about, it's that Granderson's return has to mean we are one step closer to the end of Mr. Ben Francisco, right? RIGHT?!