Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Who's On First? Not Mark Teixeira

The Yankees must be wishing Spring Training ended immediately. Perhaps then they could have a half-way healthy lineup to start the season.

With Derek Jeter working his way back from last October's broken ankle, Phil Hughes having to take it easy due to a bulging disc in his back, and Curtis Granderson sidelined with a broken bone in his forearm the Yankees lineup did not need to be depleted any further.  Unfortunately it has been.

Mark Teixeira was forced to leave the US entry in the World Baseball Classic due to a strained right wrist that occurred while he hit off of a tee. The news got worse on Wednesday after the Yankees sent Teixeira up to NYC to get additional testing done. The news was all bad.

Teixeira will be out a minimum of 8-10 weeks with a strained extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendon. The Yankees first baseman, who has the fourth most home runs in the American League since he joined the Yankees in 2009, will be completely shut down for a month. Then the work to get back in the lineup begins.

8-10 weeks is probably a conservative estimate; strong wrists are vital to a batter's (especially a power hitter) success at the plate. Nick Swisher would have just shuttled over to first base in years past, but he's in Cleveland now and the Yankees don't have many options.

Brian Cashman always likes to say he'll first look at options within the organization first, but this may be the most limited group he's had to pick from in a while. Here are the possibilities within camp and the possibilities from other organizations. (Hopefully Cashman has lost Nick Johnson's phone number.)

Travis Hafner is strictly a DH; he can't take the physical toll of playing the infield any more.

Juan Rivera played 102 games over the last three years with the Dodgers and Blue Jays, but Cashman told Mike Francesa on Wednesday that he does not consider Rivera an option.

Obviously Kevin Youkilis can play either of the corner positions, but then who fills in at third base? Jayson Nix? Some have already suggested Eduardo Nunez, but the Yankees need to stick to their guns and let him play only shortstop. His confidence on defense isn't great to begin with and they need his bat to not suffer from any defensive shortcomings.

Non-Roster Invitee (NRI) Dan Johnson is a first baseman; one that can't hit. A once promising prospects with the Oakland A's, he' bounced around Japan, the Rays, and White Sox before he accepted an invite to the Yankees' camp. In 71 games over parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Johnson showed some power, but hit below .200. He is NOT the answer.

Another NRI Luke Murton has not played above Double-A, but he did slug 25 home runs for Trenton last year and had a .791 oPS.

The Yankees have been very high on David Adams, their 3rd round draft pick in 2008 and a member of the 40-man roster, but he's been sidelined all of spring training with a bad back. Adams was drafted as a second baseman,but the Yankees converted him to third base. He's also missed parts of the last three years with leg and ankle injuries, so even if he were healthy now he might have him been a long shot at best.

There's slim pickings among the remaining free agents. Aubrey Huff has had an up and down career. From 2002-2006, primarily with Tampa Bay, he averaged about 26 home runs, drove in 100 runs twice and topped the 90 mark once. In 2008 with the O's he slugged 32 and drove in 108. He struggled the following two season before a rebound with the Giants in 2011.

Last season Huff was limited to 52 games in 2012 after he injured his knee during the celebration of Matt Cain's perfect game and some anxiety issues. The 36-year old's splits were just .192/.326/.282, but he still may be worth taking a look at it.

Cashman will also be scouring the transaction wire for players released towards the end of the regular season. He did not rule out a deal for a player that has a higher upside, but he also told Francesa o that any player acquired would need to have defensive flexibility once the injured players return. Where's a Jeff Conine type when you need him? (Francesa was already campaigning for Justin Morneau; perhaps he should remember that Morneau has his own health issues, specifically concussions.)

Another obstacle is the additional playoff team in each league. With more teams in contention for a playoff spot, teams will hold onto players (e.g. potential free agents) longer than they used to.

The feeling here is that the Yankees will go with a low key solution and will only make a bigger deal if Granderson and/or Teixeira are out for much longer than expected.

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