(Why pitch that far inside in late February??? Courtesy of the AP)
I've been tougher on Curtis Granderson than most these past few seasons, admittedly shifting from excitement about his new power swing to disappointment that it sapped so much of the rest of what used to be a well-rounded offensive game. But even I can't try to spin his fractured right forearm into anything remotely positive because there's simply nothing positive to take from it. Granderson was one of the handful of players the Yankees couldn't afford to lose this year, Teix and Cano being the other two, and to lose him for 10 weeks, even if half of that time is Spring Training time, is a huge blow. The baseball season doesn't give you timeouts or do-overs, though, so the Yankees must move forward with the players they have and try to figure out a strategy for how to get by without C-Grand until May.
There are a lot of aftershocks that will be felt throughout the ST roster and lineup, from now until the regular season starts, and a lot of players who are going to be looked at differently for the rest of spring camp. In order of most immediately important to least, here are the biggest effects of C-Grand's injury.
1) Ichiro Becomes Much More Important
The minute the Yankees chose Ichiro over Swish as their right fielder in 2013 they downgraded. Even if he continued to hit at the above-average rate he hit after the trade last season his production was still not going to match that of Swisher, and Ichiro was probably the biggest candidate to platoon with whoever wins the right-handed 4th outfielder spot. Now with Granderson out, that plan goes out the window and the Yankees not only need Ichiro to play every day, they need him to produce. A repeat of his pre-trade performance will make an already weakened lineup even worse.
2) Rivera & Diaz's Chances of Making the Roster Improve
They were already the early leaders in the 4th outfielder competition because of their veteran experience and non-guaranteed MiL contracts. Cash strengthened their positions earlier last week by saying he didn't want a young guy in the 4th OF role, and now they could both be sitting pretty for roster spots if they can stay healthy and perform in the spring. Rivera got off to a good start on Saturday with a hit and a walk while Daiz took an 0-fer, With the FA and trade markets thin at the moment, Rivera and Diaz are the best options the Yankees have to fill the missing starting role and bench spot based on the criteria they set.
3) Melky Mesa & Zoilo Almonte Will Get a Longer Look
Don't count out the young kids, though, regardless of who Cash said he wanted for the job. Previous plans are gone now that Curtis is gone for the next few months, and the Yankees can't limit their scope on finding the 2 best outfielders to fill out their roster. Rivera and Diaz are better equipped to adapt to a new situation based on their experience, but Mesa and Almonte offer higher upside thanks to their tools. Zoilo already got some shine with his HR and outfield assist on Saturday. Every play like that will get more attention for him and Mesa, and improve their chances of coming north with the club in April.
4) A Trade Becomes More Likely
There isn't much left out there, and based on the way the Yanks conducted their offseason business it's unlikely they would trade anybody of significance for a 1-month Band-Aid, but that doesn't mean Cash can't and won't pick up the phone just to test the waters. Alfonso Soriano was the first name that came to mind, Casper Wells the second, and after that it's anybody's guess. Cash and Hal would probably both prefer to not give up prospects or add payroll to fill this void, but poor performance from the group mentioned above could force their hands.
5) More Pressure On Teix to Start Strong
He's hoping playing in the World Baseball Classic will help his bat heat up quicker this season, and after watching C-Grand go down the rest of Yankeeland is hoping for that too. Teix's 4-year decline hasn't gotten the negative press it deserves so far, and after his comments to the WSJ about being overpaid and getting older some people probably started to accept the fact that Teix wasn't an upper-tier first baseman anymore. All of that takes a backseat to the team's needs in April now, and the team is going to need Teix to break out of his traditional early-month slump and mash. No excuses, no lowered expectations, Teix needs to hit the ground hitting this year and help carry the offense while Granderson mends.
6) Offseason Moves Not Made Look Even Worse
Letting Swish go without making a real offer, never getting too involved with Scott Hairston, passing on Michael Morse, even letting Raul Ibanez walk. All those instances of the Yankees sitting on their hands this past offseason while players who could have helped them went elsewhere sting just a little bit more now that C-Grand is out of the picture for the first month. All of those players would have been upgrades over what New York has in camp and would have made this situation a little less stressful, but the 2014 budget was more important and now that comes back to bite.
7) Granderson's 2013-2014 Free Agent Situation Takes Another Hit
His down 2012 season and continued poor defensive ratings might already have been negatively impacting his earning potential on the open market after this season. The experiment of swapping him and Brett Gardner in the outfield would have done some more damage, especially if it resulted in him being moved to left for the whole 2013 season. Now this injury and missed time will add more questions about Curtis' future and possibly hinder his power and production after he comes back. He very likely wasn't returning to the Yankees anyway after this season. Now Granderson is going to end up wherever he ends up with a little less money in his pocket.
To keep things in perspective and not turn this into the end of the world, remember that it is only one month plus that Granderson is expected to be out. And it's happening in the earliest part of the season, which gives the Yankees plenty of time to play catch up if they have to once Granderson returns. All the team needs to do is tread water for the first month until C-Grand gets back, and they do still have a roster capable of doing that. It's just going to be a lot tougher without Curtis and is going to require more out of players not originally expected to provide more.