It only took until the second Grapefruit League game for the Yankees to sustain its first serious injury of the season. J.A. Happ drilled Curtis Granderson with a pitch on the right forearm, fracturing the bone. He’ll be out for about 10 weeks, which is troubling news for the club. While no injury is good, at least it didn’t happen toward the end of Spring Training, which would have caused him to miss a larger chunk of the games that matter.
If Granderson’s recovery goes smoothly, he could be back at the beginning of May. However, considering that he is going to need time to get up to speed with live pitching, it may be a bumpy transition back into the lineup. Unlike the rest of the club, Granderson won’t have the chance to adjust to live pitching in a calm environment like Spring Training. One other notable repercussion is that it may thwart a swap of Granderson and Brett Gardner‘s outfield positions, as the Yankees may not wish to have Curtis learn on the fly upon his return.
Without Granderson in the lineup for what could be about 20% of the entire regular season, there’s enormous pressure for the Yankees to come flying out of the gate. We all know the division has improved this winter, while the Yankees took a step back. The losses of Nick Swisher and Russell Martin had already put an extra onus the rest of the lineup, but losing Granderson’s power production for a month is a tough blow. Hopefully, Mark Teixeira can have a hot April for once to pick up some of the slack.
What many are probably wondering is if the Yankees will make some sort of trade to fill in the void. I doubt it. Brian Cashman really has no leverage in this situation to make a deal, and anyone he can get for a reasonable price is probably a marginal upgrade over what the team has internally. Sure, Alfonso Soriano is out there, but unless the Cubs eat the vast majority of his contract, it doesn’t make sense. Furthermore, it sounds like the Cubs want a good prospect in return for him. No thanks.
Expect the Yankees to try to tread water for the first month of the year with Juan Rivera or Matt Diaz in left. There’s a good chance that both of them could make the club now, with one serving as the full-time left fielder and the other getting DH reps vs. lefties. Others like Zoilo Almonte, Ronnier Mustelier, Melky Mesa, and Thomas Neal may garner some consideration, but I expect the Yankees go to with veterans for the time being. It’s too bad that Chris Dickerson and Russ Canzler are no longer around.
For what it’s worth, I took a look at Baseball Musing’s Lineup Tool in attempt to quantify how much Granderson’s loss will mean. If you recall, in a recent article, I used the tool and ZiPS projections to quantify how the offense in 2013 would perform in comparison to 2012. I readjusted the lineup as follows: Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Juan Rivera, Chris Stewart, and Brett Gardner. Again, using the ZiPS OBP and SLG projections, this lineup would score 4.902 runs per game. With Granderson, the lineup was projected to score 5.044 per game. In 30 games, the difference would be a little more than 4 runs. If this was a full season, the difference would be over 20 runs, or 2 extra wins, which would be worrisome considering the anticipated tight divisional race. So, if there’s any silver lining, it’s that this happened from the get go in Spring Training.
There are flaws in Baseball Musing’s Lineup Tool, as it doesn’t account for variables like hot and cold streaks and other injuries, so again, take it for what it’s worth. Personally, I was expecting a bit more than just a 4 run difference over a 30 game span. But, it does go to show that the lineup is still expected to be a pretty good one, even without Curtis. Let’s hope so.