You can say Curtis Granderson's 2013 has been a disappointing one, and it has nothing to do with actual lack of production at the plate. Well, actually it does. Thanks to a broken forearm in Spring Training and a broken left pinky earlier in the year, Granderson has amassed just 31 plate appearances due to those fluky injuries. Thankfully, he'll be making his return tonight against the Padres, but at the same time, it will throw a bit of a monkey wrench into the current outfield picture.
Since the trade of Alfonso Soriano, there have been no troubles getting him, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, and Vernon Wells into the lineup. However, with Granderson's return, it will be more of a challenge to give everyone equal playing time. This won't necessarily be a problem for Gardner, Granderson, and Soriano, considering they're the team's three best outfielders, but it'll more of a challenge for Ichiro and Wells to find consistent lineup spots.
With the Yankees playing in San Diego these next three days, they'll presumably be playing with Wells and Ichiro on the bench and have Soriano in left, Gardner in center, and Granderson in right. However, once we get back to regular play, a spot at DH will open. The Yankees could then have an outfield of Granderson in left, Gardner in center, an Ichiro/Wells platoon in right, and Soriano at DH. Sounds simple, right? Not quite.
Normally an Ichiro/Wells platoon, with Ichiro getting PA's against righties and Wells against lefties, would work, but not so much in this case. Wells hasn't been great against lefties (.281/.331/.397, 97 wRC+), but when the pickings are slim, you've got to go with what you have. Ichiro, on the other hand, has been really good against lefties (.347/.355/.475, 126 wRC+), but really bad against righties (.246/.298/.332, 68 wRC+). This has been going on all season and it hasn't corrected itself and here we are in August. At this point, it would be wise of the Yankees to give Ichiro a spot in the lineup against lefties.
The above scenario also includes Soriano at DH. This is fine on some nights, but not necessarily every night. I don't know what Derek Jeter's schedule is like, but he can't play shortstop every night, thus he'll have to get some at-bats at DH every now and then. Also, if Alex Rodriguez can avoid a Biogenesis suspension (and that's a big "if"), he'll surely find some time at DH, too. This is a logjam no matter how you look at it. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out, but if you ask me, I bet we'll see Gardner, Granderson, and Soriano get regular plate attempts while Ichiro and Wells get mushed into a platoon, despite the stats.
With all this said, it'll be very nice to have Curtis Granderson back in the lineup. In fact, the Yankees could do a lot worse than a potential Soriano-Gardner-Granderson outfield if in fact they decide to go that route. That trio provides power from the left and right side, solid defense, some speed, and some patience. A little bit of everything, really. No matter what the outfield looks like, it will play an important role in this team getting back to playing October baseball once again.