Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who Goes When Granderson Returns?

As we mentioned yesterday and again this morning, Curtis Granderson is currently rehabbing with Scranton and is slated to rejoin the Yankees in time for Friday's series opener against Cleveland.

Granderson's return of course means that someone has to go from the Big League roster. As much we'd like that someone to be Boone Logan, Joe Girardi has made it pretty clear that he likes having Logan as a second lefty in the bullpen and it's highly unlikely the Yankees will abandon the seven man bullpen ever again.

Thus, barring an injury between now and then, a position player will have to be removed from the roster. As the back-up catcher, Chad Moeller is safe. That leaves five candidates: Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Juan Miranda, Marcus Thames, and Randy Winn.

Thames is safe. Despite his defensive deficiencies, he's of value to the team as presently constructed, particularly with Nick Johnson out of action for the foreseeable future. Thames has hit a scorching hot .357/.472/.536 thus far, mashes lefties, and figures to be part of DH platoon with Juan Miranda. Miranda too figures to be safe, not only as part of a DH platoon, but in serving as Mark Teixeira's back up, thereby allowing Nick Swisher to stay in right field on a daily basis.

Ramiro Pena also figures to stick around His .211/.244/.237 batting line is anemic and he might benefit from two weeks of steady playing time at Scranton. But as of now Pena is the utility infielder. Kevin Russo could supplant him in that role, but given Russo's inexperience at shortstop, I think the club wants to keep Pena around. Derek Jeter may not take much time off, but when he does the team wants a reliable glove in his place.

Kevin Russo is the most likely to be demoted. His spot is the least secure on the roster, and though he's started three of the last four games in left field, he still has just 16 career appearances in the outfield. That said, his stock appears to be rising, his bat is one the few that's been awake over the past several days, and if the Yankees believe he is capable as an outfielder, his versatility as a super utility player would be extremely valuable on the bench.

All of which means that Randy Winn's job may be in jeopardy. Winn was an unpopular signing from the start. He was a decent player for much of his career, but his numbers took a nose dive last year (.262/.318/.353) and are even worse (.213/.300/.295) through the early part of this season. Though a switch hitter, last year he posted the worst batting line of a right handed hitter against left handed pitching in 55 years, and he's yet to reach base in 11 plate appearances against left handed pitching this year. He still rates well as a defensive corner outfielder, but is no longer capable of playing a passable center field, and made a costly misplay in left field against the Mets Saturday. He's also become a favorite whipping boy/scapegoat amongst the fanbase.

Winn has had only 71 plate appearances this year, so it might be a bit premature to consider him done. But he had a poor 2009 and at thirty six years old it's unlikely he'll bounce back all that much. The crux of the matter comes down to whether or not the organization views Russo as a capable outfielder. If they do, then he becomes a viable fourth outfielder, and a more attractive option than Winn. If they don't, he goes back to Scranton to continue his apprenticeship in the outfield and Winn lives another day.

Either way, Winn hasn't performed well. In addition to Russo, the stocks of Scranton outfielders Chad Huffman, David Winfree, and Colin Curtis all appear to be on the upswing. Most likely, the Yankees will want to option Russo, giving him a little more experience in the outfield and to give Winn a few more weeks to turn things around before cutting him loose. But with the trademarket figuring to loosen up soon, and with several cheaper and likely equally effective options waiting in Scranton, Randy Winn's days with the Yankees are likely numbered.

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