(How do you replace that kind of grit?? Courtesy of The Daily News)
I got an interesting variance in responses after posting the news of Brett Gardner's latest elbow setback on The AB4AR Page last night. There were calls for the Yankees to get more involved in the trade market (in a big way or small), calls for them to focus on re-signing their own free agents, and my personal thought that they don't really have to do either. It's not clear what direction they are going to take, but what is clear is that the Yankees are going to react in some way to this latest setback. They were in "wait and see" mode again, but they've waited and they've seen that Gardner is no longer an option to be counted on. So what route are Cash and Co. going to take to address this issue? Let's review the options.
Make A Trade
The simplest and easiest response would be to become more active in the trade market. The Yanks were already rumored to be interested in pursuing another outfielder for the right price, and Gardner being out indefinitely has to strengthen the likelihood of a trade happening. They could follow the plan from the past couple deadlines and make a minor move or swing for the fences and go after someone like Justin Upton. Whatever they decide to do, it would behoove the Yankees to follow the advice of Mike Axisa and look for somebody with the ability to play center field. The last thing they need is to not have anybody capable of filling in for C-Grand if he happens to go down.
Re-Think Free Agency
This is a 2-part option, inspired by the ideas thrown out by my loyal AB4AR readers. With both Granderson and Swish set to hit the market after this season, and with both looking less and less likely to be re-upped by New York, the Yanks were already looking at replacing some outfield production next season. Gardner's injury this season, combined with his past injury history, makes him less of a sure thing to count on for 150 games a year moving forward. His style of play is always going to make him an injury risk, so maybe it would be in the Yankees' best interests to break their tradition of not negotiating mid-season and make an attempt at bringing Swish or C-Grand back.
The Yankees could also put some focus back on the upcoming free agent class and see if there is a good fit for them there for a new full-time left fielder. I'm not as sold on Josh Hamilton as an ideal replacement as others are, and he's just as big of an injury risk as Gardner (if not more so), but the idea of him hitting in Yankee Stadium is fun to envision. Future budget be damned, the Yankees probably don't want to have to piece together left field again like they have this season. If Gardner's injury problems no longer make him the right fit, the front office would be cheating themselves by not looking for somebody else to fill the role.
The last, and least exciting, option for the Yankees would be to do nothing. As frustrating as this Gardner situation has been, and as much stress and uncertainty as it causes related to Raul Ibanez's health and productivity moving forward, it's not like it has been a major hindrance to the Yankees' success this year. They've gotten solid regular production from Ibanez and Andruw Jones when they've been in left, and from Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix in small doses. Even when future roster returnees remove Wise and Darnell McDonald from the equation, the Yankees would still be left with Ibanez, Jones, and Nix capable of sharing the workload and Kosuke Fukudome and Chris Dickerson stashed away in Triple-A if needed.
It's not like being without Gardner has been more difficult than being without CC and Pettitte for the last 3 weeks, and the Yankees didn't make any panic moves there to trade for a starting pitcher. Shouldn't that same patient logic apply for your #9 hitter too? That's just how I feel, but I can also get on board with making a move. A left-handed hitter with some speed who can play the position full time and allow Ibanez to spend his time at DH would be ideal, but I'm not willing to give up a whole lot to get that.