Before Spring Training started, I had made a joke to a friend that the Yankees were going to have to begin shooting a reality show called, "So You Wanna Be A Catcher?" so the three main players competing for the starting catcher position - Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine - could show off their skills. What I didn't realize is that SYWBAC would have a sister show called "Project Left Fielder," and that instead of it turning into a showcase for Curtis Granderson to be groomed into an everyday, starting left fielder, it would become a competition for someone else replace him. Since Granderson suffered a broken forearm during yesterday's game against Toronto, much has been written about what the Yankees are going to do. Many people have pointed out the lack of depth the team had before Granderson went down and how this injury exposes their weaknesses.
The past 24 hours have also seen a flurry of articles written about how the Yankees should go about replacing Granderson while he recovers from his injury. Some are suggesting the Yankees replace him with one of their OF prospects or one of the guys they acquired this offseason like Juan Rivera or Matt Diaz. It wouldn't be ideal but it's only going to be a month, maybe a month and a half of the season so why panic?
Even former Yankee outfielder Johnny Damon, expressed his interest in helping the team while Granderson was on the shelf. But don't worry, there's a better chance of the Yankees asking me to replace Granderson than of them asking Damon to step in for him. At least I hope so. You know what? Don't hold me to that because you never know.
There have also been rumblings of a reunion with former Yankee Alfonso Soriano as a possible Granderson replacement. In fact, people were bringing up his name before Granderson went down. Now, he's being mentioned even more.
Over at Fangraphs today, Jeff Sullivan examined the many different ways the Yankees could go about replacing Granderson. He goes into great detail about some of the scenarios I just touched upon and from what he writes, things don't look too promising. But again, Granderson is only supposed to miss a month, maybe a month and a half of the season so it doesn't have to be a complete disaster but Sullivan does bring up a few solid points.
He points out that the recovery timeline makes it so Granderson will more than likely only miss a fifth of the season - this would include rehab assignments, but for this piece Sullivan is using 41 games as a measuring stick because:
Last year, Mark Teixeira started 121 games, and didn’t start 41 games. The Yankees won 23 of those 41 games, whereas applying the winning percentage in Teixeira’s starts would’ve yielded 24 wins. This doesn’t prove anything, but it’s a point. Perhaps more saliently, the Yankees were 13-11 when Mariano Rivera went down for the year with a major injury. That was said to be devastating, and the Yankees finished 82-56. The Yankees survived the prolonged absence of Rivera, and they should survive the less prolonged absence of Curtis Granderson.
See? That's not so bad. But the offense is a lot different in 2013 than it was in 2012. You're not just missing Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, you're also missing Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and even Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez to a lesser extent. We also don't know how Derek Jeter is going to be in the beginning of the season while trying to come back from his ankle surgery.
More from Sullivan on the 41-game equation:
Here’s the super simple math. By various measures, Granderson projects to be worth three or four wins in 2013. The Yankees have a bunch of approximately replacement-level internal options. Take Granderson out for 41 games and the Yankees are down about a win or so. That’s just average, that’s just probability, and in reality the Yankees could struggle far more out of the gate, but at the same time the Yankees could also overachieve because anything’s possible over a fraction of one season. Missing Granderson is only as devastating as missing about one win is devastating.
So it's not all doom and gloom. Honestly, no one really knows what is going to happen which is why, as cliched as this sounds, the games are played on the field and not on paper. Maybe Kevin Youkilis comes out strong in the beginning of the season. Maybe Mark Teixeira doesn't have a bad April. Who knows? Robinson Cano could explode and have an unconscious April like Alex Rodriguez did in 2007 and maybe Granderson won't be missed that much in the lineup.
Maybe a better option would be Casper Wells, who has years of team control but who isn’t locked into a guaranteed multiyear deal. Wells is a righty outfielder capable of playing all three positions, and he’s basically fighting Jason Bay for a job.
Hmm a righty who can play all three positions and it looks like he may be left to languish in Seattle? Sullivan added:
Wells would be preferable to the Yankees’ other in-house options, and it’s doubtful he would cost a premium prospect. He seems to me like a good compromise between overreacting to the injury and underreacting to the injury. Though the Yankees don’t stand to be crippled, they do stand to be hurt, and Wells could help out in the short-term while sticking around for a while as quality depth.
Now, of course, availability and cost are a big factor in this and GM Brian Cashman seems to be in favor of the "fill in from within" mantra that he is also practicing with the starting catching position. As long as the Yankees don't do something crazy and as long as Granderson recovers on time and comes back 100%, I think they'll be fine.