One other thing that may have affected the choice, however, is the fact that the Yankees aren’t carrying many outfielders on their 40 man roster at the moment. Other than the major leaguers listed as outfielders, Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa are the only replacements that could be recalled at the moment. Dewayne Wise is on fire at the Triple-A level, yes, but he’d need to be added to the 40 man roster to come up now and then designated for assignment when Gardner is ready to return. If it’s going to be a short term issue for Gardner, it’s probably not worth the possibility of losing some of your roster depth now to get an extra below average big leaguer on your bench for two weeks.
Unfortunately, this puts the Yankees in a bit of a tough spot where their lineup is concerned, as they still need a starting leftfielder every day, and the only guys available to fill that roll are Andruw Joness and Raul Ibanez (or perhaps Eduardo Nunez, depending on how willing the Yankees are to give him playing time in the outfield), and there are obvious limitations to both. Jones doesn’t hit right handers well at all, while Ibanez’s defensive deficiencies probably don’t need to be rehashed in this space. And yet, one or both of them are going to have to be in the lineup just about everyday.
I’ve been mulling over various ways that Joe Girardi could limit the damage over the next two weeks or so in my head most of the morning, and at this point I’ve basically come to the conclusion that I’m not sure there’s any obviously superior configuration available. Jones gives you much better defense in left than Ibanez would, but Ibanez figures to be much more useful at the plate against right-handed pitching than Jones. Even working in Eric Chavez at third base and giving Alex Rodriguez more time as a DH probably doesn’t add much at the margins, as Chavez isn’t much with the bat these days and probably isn’t a huge upgrade over A-Rod as a third baseman in a small sampling. Other than the potential value of giving A-Rod the benefit of a few more “half-days,” the ability to play Chavez (or Nunez) more in the infield isn’t going to do anything to make up for the left field problem if the Jones/Ibanez combo effectively becomes an everyday outfielder.
If there’s a real, glaring, issue here, it’s that Ibanez isn’t much of a hitter against southpaws at this point in his career. He’s got a single in four plate appearances against them this year, but he was an abysmal .211/.232/.353 (.254 wOBA) in 133 plate appearances against them in 2011. With that in mind (plus the fact that having Ibanez and Jones both in the starting lineup would leave you without an outfielder on the bench), I’d probably use this as an excuse to get Nunez some more playing time, at least against lefties, with him spelling either A-Rod or Derek Jeter in the field against left-handed starters. Against righties? Your guess is as good as mine, but the tendencies and talent of that day’s pitcher should come into account here. C.C. Sabathia can probably overcome crappy play in left, but Ibanez should never be allowed anywhere near a glove when Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia are taking the ball.