The silver lining about a 10-week injury to Curtis Granderson: Opening Day is still more than a month away.
Losing Granderson’s power is far from an ideal way for the Yankees to start the spring, but it’s hardly a season-wrecker either. And while there might be some concern over whether Granderson will regain his power right away after his broken forearm heals, I think that’s less of an issue than it would be were it a wrist or hand injury.
One problem the Yankees do face here is that they released their best Granderson replacement last month. Veteran Chris Dickerson hit .316/.417/.514 with 17 steals in 69 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and also popped a couple of homers in 14 at-bats in the majors last season. A plus defender in a corner still capable of manning center, he was the fourth best outfielder on the Yankees’ roster at the time of his release. The main issue is that, like the three guys ahead of him, he’s a left-handed hitter, which made him poorly suited for a spot on the team’s bench.
The Yankees also lost Russ Canzler on waivers earlier this month. Like Dickerson, he’s now an Oriole. He would have been a liability in left field, but he projected better offensively than any of the Yankees’ current internal options, a group that includes journeymen Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz and Thomas Neal and prospect Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa.
The one internal option not getting much play yet is Eduardo Nunez. Nunez started three games in left field for the Yankees last season, but the team was committed to keeping him at shortstop this spring with Derek Jeter rehabbing. Perhaps that will change next month if Jeter shows he’s ready to play shortstop on Opening Day.
Of course, then there are the external options. Alfonso Soriano is the name on everyone’s lips, even though he still has two very expensive seasons left on his contract. Also, he wields a no-trade clause and he presumably wouldn’t be happy about shifting to a part-time role once Granderson returns. Soriano was asked about the Yankees possibility by CSN’s Patrick Mooney today: “If they call for me, I have to think about it because I don’t want to take a quick reaction and say yes or no.”
The Cubs would presumably cover a heavy portion of the $38 million left on Soriano’s deal in order to move him, but still, even taking on $5 million or so for 2014 would hurt the Yankees as they try to get under the luxury tax. For a one-month Granderson replacement, he wouldn’t make much sense.
Other external options include free agents Scott Podsednik, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu, none of whom figure to hold much appeal. The Mariners have Casper Wells and Eric Thames expendable after loading up on veterans. The right-handed-hitting Wells would actually be a pretty nice fit as a fourth outfielder after Granderson returns. The Tigers’ Brennan Boesch and Padres’ Jesus Guzman could be made available. There are also veterans like Ben Francisco (Indians), Conor Jackson (Orioles), Darnell McDonald (Cubs), Tony Gwynn Jr. (Dodgers), who might not make their current teams and could be had next to nothing, though they’re not necessarily better bets than Rivera and Diaz.
The guess here is that Rivera is the Yankees’ Opening Day left fielder. He doesn’t have a whole lot left, but he’s a better bet than Diaz and none of the younger prospects are ready to hit in the majors. Keeping Mesa around as a defensive replacement might make sense, though only until Granderson comes back.