11:47 am Feb. 25, 2013
It took an injury to Curtis Granderson to show just how committed the Yankees are to their new, relatively restrained approach to spending.
Granderson, the 2012 team leader in home runs with 43, was hit by a pitch in Tampa on Sunday that fractured his arm. He's expected to be out for ten weeks, which would mean a return in early May.
With Brett Gardner in center field and Ichiro Suzuki in right field, the remaining outfielders with major league experience are Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz, both players more appropriate as bench alternatives than everyday options. In the minor leagues, a handful of somewhat promising alternatives exist, with Ronnier Mustelier and Zoilo Almonte as untested possibilities, though both are not high-ceiling prospects.
There's a remarkably similar player to Granderson available to the Yankees now, a beloved ex-Yankee no less, and if the team were prepared to spend as they have been in the past, he'd probably be in pinstripes already.
Alfonso Soriano is in the seventh year of an eight-year, $136 million contract the Chicago Cubs ill-advisedly signed him to back in November 2006. It hasn't worked out well for them, all told: Soriano's power stayed, but all other aspects of his game have slowly gone away.
Now 36, the speed that allowed him to steal 40 bases in a season three times, most recently in 2006, has disappeared. He walks less than ever, and his defense is a liability.
Last season, his slash line was .262/.322/.499, with 32 home runs, good for an O.P.S.+ of 121. Granderson checked in at .232/.319/.492, with 43 home runs, good for an O.P.S.+ of 116. Granderson, playing hurt, is still considerably better in the outfield than Soriano is now.
The Cubs, who are rebuilding, would no doubt be delighted to be rid of Soriano's salary. Soriano has a no-trade clause, but the Yankees are on a list of teams he'd consider.
And this is what they Yankees do when they need outfielders, right? Raul Mondesi was a straight salary dump. Rondell White was a straight salary dump. Bobby Abreu was acquired for marginal prospects, but was effectively a salary dump, too.
But lately, the Yankees have been detemined to shed payroll, too. They let Russell Martin, last year's catcher, go and sign a very reasonable two-year, $17 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, even though they don't have anyone near his level to play the position this year. Nick Swisher, power-hitting outfielder on the 2012 team, signed with the Cleveland Indians. And few real alternatives were brought in to replace him, leaving the Yankees so exposed in the outfield now, thanks to the Granderson injury.
Soriano makes $18 million in 2013, and more important, $18 million in 2014, the year the Yankees have vowed to get payroll below $189 million. For the limited help he'll be, and with Granderson likely out for effectively, only a month, it is hard to imagine they'll blow up the plan for such a deal. The outfield should be fully stocked within two years, with prospects Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott all likely to arrive on the scene by 2014. Whoever doesn't make it, the Yankees can simply fill in via free agency and trade at that point.
The Yankees have a hole now. But most likely, they're going to do the same thing smaller teams do in similar situations: wait.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Knicks snapped a four-game losing streak, beating the Sixers Sunday night, 99-93, and the bench combo of Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith were the primary reasons why.
The Nets lost to the Grizzlies Sunday night, 76-72, playing without the services of the injured Joe Johnson, and without Brook Lopez in the fourth quarter for any good reason whatsoever.
The Post now says the Mets are still in debt, and expect to lose more money in 2013.
Apparently, the plan to add an outfielder this winter would have led to the Mets asking instead, "What double-play combination?"
The good news is, Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler looked great this weekend, and more arms are stockpiling behind them. Most beyond Harvey/Wheeler have a 2015 ETA, though.
M.L.S. commissioner Don Garber's state of the league address will be held Wednesday evening.
The Red Bulls dropped their final preseason match; the league opener is on March 3, in Portland.
Here's what the M.L.S.-proposed stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is to look like.
St. John's missed a big chance to add to its N.C.A.A. tournament case, losing at home to Pittsburgh, 63-47.
Seton Hall's nightmare season has Steve Politi in the Star-Ledger agreeing with coach Kevin Willard's sharpest critics.