February 25, 2013 by Matt Musico
New York Yankees fans saw a sight yesterday they would like to forget, as a JA Happ pitch struck Curtis Granderson in the foream. The worst possible news came out later, as the Grandy Man has a fracture and is expected to miss 10 weeks. Although Brian Cashman re-signed Ichiro Suzuki, the departure of Nick Swisher to the Indians already made the Yankee outfield a little thin, and this latest injury doesn’t help. Now, New York should be turning to Brett Gardner to pick up the slack and take over center field for the time being.
After playing in 150+ games in 2010 and 2011, Gardner’s 2012 campaign was derailed by injury, as the fleet-footed outfielder only played in 16 games last season. To make matters worse, he was off to a hot start in those 31 at-bats, hitting .323/.417/.387. He was originally slated to take over the starting duties in left field this year, but with Granderson on the shelf, it should be a no brainer for Joe Girardi to shift Gardner to center.
He truly is the perfect leadoff man; he’s patient enough to take a walk, can wreck havoc on the basepaths, and can score plenty of runs. His season averages from ’10 to ’11 that are critical to a successful leadoff hitter are as follows: 12.1% BB-rate, .364 OBP, 92 runs scored, and 48 stolen bases.
So, I think it’s pretty clear Gardner is ready to come back and have a signficant impact in the Yankee lineup, but with him moving to center, that leaves a hole in left field for the time being. However, New York signed right-handed hitting outfielders Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera to a minor league deals with an invites to Big League camp, and either one could be the perfect filler until Grandy comes off the disabled list. The Yankees will be missing some of that much needed power from him, especially since Alex Rodriguez is already on the shelf until at least the All-Star break, but if Diaz or Rivera proves to be healthy and productive enough to play everyday the first month or so of the season, Cashman won’t have to worry about making a trade.
The first thought everyone has is that the Yankees need to go out and get another outfielder, and the rumors have already started surrounding New York and both Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells. Their respective teams would love to unload them and be willing to pay a significant chunk of their remaining salary, but I don’t think the Yankees need to make a move like that, not until they find out what their internal options look like. Granderson will only be out until the start of May, not August.
The fact that this injury occurred early in the spring is actually better. Now, he’ll only miss a month of the season, whereas it could have been at least two if he got hit with that pitch a month from now. Cashman doesn’t really need to go out and get a big bopper to pick up the slack for their injured center fielder because they have two viable internal options that can fill the gap for the time being until he’s ready to get back on the field.
Time will tell before we see what the Yankees decide to do about their outfield before they break camp for Opening Day, but one thing they shouldn’t be doing right now is scrambling to make a trade; they have plenty of options to exhaust internally first.
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