The New York Yankees were already dealing with injury concerns before spring training, but a pitch from Blue Jays’ lefty J.A. Happ further crimped the Yankees’ plans.
Happ’s fastball drilled Yankees’ center fielder Curtis Granderson in the latter’s first spring training at-bat. Granderson suffered a fractured right arm on the play and will miss at least the first month of the season.
Of course, with the way the Yankees spend money, the first response was to see who the team could bring in to replace Granderson. But based on available options and the timetable for Granderson’s return, the Yankees are likely to explore internal options to fill that spot in the lineup.
Brett Gardner, who was slated to be the team’s left fielder, will slide over to center, so the Yankees will focus on filling in the left field position. Last year’s left fielders, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones, have moved on. Ichiro Suzuki played left field down the stretch, but he’ll play right field this year after the departure of Nick Swisher.
Alfonso Soriano has been rumored as a potential replacement for Granderson. The Chicago Cubs are trying to get younger and are said to be willing to eat about $26 million of the $36 million remaining on Soriano’s contract.
Soriano would provide some pop in a Yankees’ lineup that has lost a ton of home runs, but a trade appears unlikely. With Granderson only expected to miss a little more than a month, what happens to Soriano when the Yankees’ regular center fielder returns?
The Bronx Bombers signed Travis Hafner as their DH, so a Soriano/Hafner platoon could be an option. But that’s an awfully expensive DH.
Former Yankee Johnny Damon, who is currently unemployed, expressed his interest in filling the void for Granderson. However, the Yankees will not explore that route, since Damon can no longer provide the defense of an everyday outfielder.
The most likely options are Matt Diaz, Juan Rivera and Eduardo Nunez.
Diaz has mostly been a platoon partner in his career since he crushes lefties. He’s a natural left fielder and would be a decent short-term option. However, he’s coming off an ugly thumb injury.
Rivera still has good power. He clubbed nine home runs in 312 at-bats for the Dodgers last season. He played in 109 games last year so appears to be the most durable option.
Nunez meanwhile is an infielder by trade, who is a defensive butcher there to begin with. He has a good bat, but he’s only appeared in a handful of games in the outfield. But with Derek Jeter blocking his path to shortstop, he might get the chance to prove his worth as an offensive-minded outfielder in Granderson’s absence.
Even without Granderson, the Yankees’ lineup is still dangerous. Replacing Granderson won’t necessarily be the responsibility of whoever is playing left field for the Yankees. It will be up to Jeter, Robinson Cano, Ichiro and Mark Teixeira to pick up their offensive production.