It’s a topic that Yankees fans began debating the minute Brett Gardner went on the disabled list, revisited when Nick Swisher left Sunday’s game, and belabored every time a fly ball came Eduardo Nunez’ way over the last two days:
Is it time for the Yankees to bite the bullet and bring in another outfielder?
Swisher doesn’t think his tight hamstring will keep him out of action for too long, but Joe Girardi said earlier this week that Swish may not be fully available until next Tuesday – a full eight days after he first sat out. That’s a lengthy absence, but with Brett Gardner eligible for activation from the DL on Thursday, it was thought that the Yankees could make do.
However, news came out on Wednesday that Girardi thinks it is “doubtful” that Gardner will be activated when he is eligible; the skipper believes that his regular left fielder will need “at least one” rehab game before being reinstated, which pushes his return back into the weekend (if not later).
Those two statements, compounded with Eduardo Nunez’ critical error in left field on Tuesday night, have many believing that the Yankees are only hurting themselves by not adding another option.
As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and as much of a team player as a guy like Nunez may be, there’s a big difference between bridging a gap and patching a hole – and until either or both of their corner outfielders return to the starting lineup, that’s exactly what the Yankees seem to have.
Although he’s making the best of it, Joe Girardi only has 11 healthy active position players at his disposal, one of which is backup catcher Chris Stewart. And, even though Andruw Jones is a multiple-time Gold Glover and Raul Ibanez was a regular in Philly as recently as 2011, it has been acknowledged that Girardi doesn’t want to count on both as everyday outfielders for too long of a stretch.
But right now, his options are to either do just that or continue to use a utility infielder who doubled his total of Major League experience in the outfield over the last two days.
The Yankees are admittedly thin on outfielders on the 40-man roster; they only have two in the Minors, and one (Zoilo Almonte) happens to be on the DL at Double-A Trenton himself. The other, Melky Mesa, has never played above that level.
But there are other options, and there are ways to make it happen.
At Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees have no less than six players (and that’s not even counting Chris Dickerson, who is also on the DL) who have significantly more outfield experience than Nunez. And, as much as he may also have declined defensively in recent years, Bobby Abreu is a free agent and may be amenable to even a temporary return to the Bronx – one that would only cost the Yankees a pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum salary for however long he stays.
As far as the current roster goes, even if the Yankees don’t want to put Swisher on the DL and lose him for up to a week longer than possibly necessary, they could just option one of their 13 pitchers (likely D.J. Mitchell) back to Scranton. And, there are multiple players (most notably Michael Pineda) who could be moved to from the 15-day DL to the 60-day to accommodate space for an additional outfielder.
Whether or not anything happens in the next few days prior to Gardner’s eventual reinstatement remains to be seen, of course…but how do you feel about the outfield situation?