Curtis Granderson will likely be the first of the New York Yankees who were injured before the season began to be activated off the D.L., though he is not necessarily the most-welcome addition. Sure, Granderson knocked in 43 homeruns last year and was a prime source of lefty power in the lineup. But the undeniable fact is the outfield, the Yankees, populated by Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, is doing just fine, thriving even, without him.
When Granderson fractured his forearm at the onset of Spring Training, it was a surprising and capricious blow that left both Yankee fans and teammates nervous both about the loss of power and the loss of the star center fielder. GM Brian Cashman worked quickly, acquiring Wells from the Los Angeles Angels to replace Granderson in the outfield, and picked up Brennan Boesch after he was released from the Detroit Tigers to add another lefty outfield bat to the lineup.
Thus far, Cashman’s combination of players has miraculously worked as a team; Wells is having a fantastic spring, Gardner’s defense now that he has moved to centerfield continues to save runs, and Suzuki’s a future Hall of Famer who will heat up as the season progresses. Even Boesch, though his numbers aren’t particularly reflective of this, has helped out the team when his bat or defense was needed. The question then becomes, where does Granderson fit into all this?
This Yankees team is winning a lot of close games, and the “gutty, gritty, Yanks” as John Sterling calls them, are not dissimilar from the Yankee teams of old, clawing and scratching for W’s. Adding a star player just off the disabled list in his contract year might shake things up.
Granderson’s performance might not be at its peak upon his return. Granderson will likely be moved from his former position in center to left, a position he has only played 22 times in his career. But Gardner’s quickness and range in the outfield are more valuable at center, and the plan to switch the two was already stated before Granderson’s injury, so there is no reason it wouldn’t stand. This may allow for some mistakes and miscues in the outfield on Granderson’s part though, at least at first.
Another factor in Granderson’s return is the amount of strikeouts he racks up. He finished with the second most in the majors last year, and his total was more than the entire roster struck out the month of April. His propensity for striking out was a boon to the team last year, and especially hurt their ability to get runners home. I would hate to see the Yankees revert to the homerun or strikeout team they were with the star sluggers on the team, and this collection of guys who can bunt and hit for power is a welcome change.
The Yankees don’t even seem to need Granderson, who led the team in homeruns last season. They currently have complied 38 homeruns, and are only two behind the Atlanta Braves who rank first.
The unfortunate fact is that when Granderson returns, for better of for worse, the team will change. The Yankees were not meant to look like this in 2013, and sooner or later we all knew they would revert back to their original design. But the success the current players who are taking the field have together is hard to ignore, and losing Wells in the lineup everyday, or losing a player altogether might hurt more than help.