Bronx Tales: Can the Yankees survive a season without Teixeira? What do they do now?

KOBEsh: The news came out a couple days ago that Mark TeIxeIra’s injury could be much more severe than originally thought–like “season ending” more severe. With an injury as complex as his, there’s no reason to suspect that he’ll be able to get in more than 300 at-bats..and that might be on the optimistic side.
That being said, can the Yankees survive with Eduardo Nunez, Juan Rivera and Dan “Only Good on the Last Day of the Season” Johnson getting anywhere between 300 and 500 at-bats? Or maybe more?
Moreover, do the Yankees have to make a trade now? What type of players would they be targeting? Or are they going to look more towards a free agent signing in the Scott Rolen, Derrek Lee, Carlos Lee mold?

Vin: First, regarding Tex’s injury, you used the perfect word to describe it- “complex.” Cashman says that even with the latest worrisome news, there is still a 70% chance he won’t need surgery and will be able to return within the original 8 to 10 weeks time frame. But it isn’t as simple as (and is even scarier than) there being a 30% chance the Yankees lose one of their biggest bats for the season. Wrist injuries are notoriously unpredictable (see: Gardner, Brett, 2012) and Tex could avoid surgery and still take a lot longer to come back than 10 weeks. He insisted yesterday that coming back earlier than when he is absolutely ready is a stupid idea because of the nature of the injury and the risk of making it worse and missing the whole season. He’s right… but that also means we might not seem him for a while. In addition, there are the concerns of how he will perform coming off an injury to such a key part of a slugger’s body.

If the Yankees can survive with the players who will be replacing Tex, Granderson, et al. will largely depend on their strength: pitching. And let’s please take out our notebooks and memorialize this moment (for me, March 18, 23:26 EST) when it was said that the New York Yankees’ season will depend on whether their strong starting pitching can overcome their weak offense. Ever since the days of Mussina/Clemens/Wells/Pettitte ended, the Yankees’ undeniable strength has been their mashing, patient, walking offense and their biggest question mark has been their starting pitching. While the Yankees’ starting pitching isn’t much different this year than the last few, the holes in their lineup and on the bench make the rotation look relatively stronger because of its lack of question marks. If CC/Kuroda/Pettitte/Hughes/Nova/Phelps can put up similar numbers to last year AND stay healthy, the Yanks can overcome their offense. If one or more of them misses a lot of time and/or if Bad Phil Hughes and Bad Ivan Nova come to the party and/or if age catches up to Pettitte and Kuroda’s performance, who knows? I don’t know many teams that overcome weak offense and pitching. (When comparing the pitching to the offense, we also can’t forget Michael Pineda waits in the wings as a potential huge upgrade, albeit far far far from a guarantee. I mean, if he came back and did what he did for Seattle in 2011, it would almost be as huge for the pitching as A-Rod’s return will be for the offense!)

As for replacements, see last week’s post. The current people in camp don’t inspire much confidence as replacements. This reality is brought home by the excitement shown by Yankees’ fans and staffers over the signing of Brennan Boesch last week, whose ceiling is higher than others in camp but who also hit .240 with a .286 OBP last year. Hell, Cashman even bestowed his beloved “big, hairy monster” title on Boesch just because he bats lefty and has some power and might play in Yankee Stadium. Don’t get me wrong–I was happy the Yanks got him. But it’s a reflection of the times.

Cashman said today in an interview on WFAN with Francesa that no serious trade discussions are taking place. Obviously he wouldn’t say if they were, but we have no reason not to believe him. Now is not the time of year when teams trade good players. The Yanks’ best option for replacing their holes is to hope that enough of the unenviable options they have in camp (Juan Rivera, Ronnier Mustelier, Eduardo Nunez playing in the field, Melky Mesa, etc.) and that have and will continue to emerge from other camps (Ben Francisco, Boesch) will catch some lightning in a bottle and be able to contribute to an April and May team that can stay in the race.

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