New York Yankees Options to Replace Curtis Granderson
One game into spring training and the New York Yankees are already off on the wrong foot.
Granderson has a fractured right forearm and is expected to miss 10 weeks. That leaves his return date to be in early May.
So what are the Yankees going to do? Here is a look at the Yankees' options for replacing Granderson until he returns.
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This offseason, the Yankees signed Juan Rivera to a minor league deal. He was expected to compete for a spot as a backup outfielder.
Rivera has experience as an everyday outfielder. He started his career with the Yankees. In 88 games in pinstripes, Rivera hit .262, with eight homers and 32 RBI.
He was then dealt in 2004, in the deal that brought Javier Vasquez to the Yanks. Since then, Rivera has played for the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. He has hit .275 and averaged 14 HR and 56 RBI, including four seasons with at least 15 homers.
Rivera is a big league hitter. He has some power that will help make up for the loss of Granderson. Rivera also has a career batting average that is 12 points higher than Granderson's.
Rivera is my choice to temporarily replace Granderson, however, the issue is his defense. The Yankees would be going from having arguably the best defensive outfield with Granderson, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki to having a liability in left, if Rivera is playing there everyday.
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The Yankees were in a search for a right-handed bat this offseason. That led them to former Atlanta Braves outfielder, Matt Diaz.
The Yanks signed Diaz to compete for a spot on the 25-man roster. Granderson's injury opens the door for Diaz to potentially compete for an even bigger role.
Diaz is a career .291 hitter and has averaged 10 homers and 50 RBI per 162 games. His experience in the majors could make him a viable option to replace Granderson.
The issue here is Diaz isn't an everyday player. He would most likely split time with another player, like Juan Rivera, and get on the field when it is a favorable matchup for him.
Some of the Yankees' top prospects are outfielders. Three players that are highly praised in their organization are Tyler Austin, Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott.
Heathcott was the first round pick by the Yanks in 2009. He has had several health issues, including shoulder surgery in 2011. However, he has bounced back nicely and was very impressive in the Arizona Fall League.
Austin was drafted in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, but has played like a first round pick. In 159 minor league games, Austin has hit .331, with 23 homers, 116 RBI and 41 stolen bases.
The majority of Austin's minor league games have been in single A. He probably isn't ready for the big leagues yet, but if he keeps playing like he has, the majors won't be far away for Austin.
Williams has great speed and defense. He has hit .317 in the minors, with 14 homers, 66 RBI and 49 stolen bases.
The Yankees usually don't rush prospects up to the big leagues and I don't see them doing that here. While some MLB experience could be beneficial for one of these young guys, I don't think Austin, Williams or Heathcott will start the season in the majors.
Some prospects in the Yankees organization that may be more ready to play in the majors are Melky Mesa or Ronnier Mustelier.
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Right when we found out Granderson would miss a significant amount of time, rumors regarding a possible reuniting of the Yankees and Alfonso Soriano started up.
Soriano has two years left on his huge eight-year, $136 million contract. He is at the tail end of his career but can still produce offensively and put up big numbers. Soriano hit 32 homers and 108 RBI last year.
While a move for Soriano may not be necessary because Granderson will only miss one month of the regular season, his power and production would be as close to Granderson's as they can get. This move could also give the Yankees more depth when Granderson comes back.