Temporarily Replacing Curtis Granderson

All offseason long, there were questions regarding whether or not the Yankees had done enough. The Yankees, understandably, have been confident in themselves, but the media has expressed its share of doubt. That was with the Yankees as previously constructed. Now the Yankees are constructed differently, with one fewer Curtis Granderson, as the outfielder was hit by a pitch over the weekend and is now out for about 10 weeks. On one hand, it’s the right time for an injury, since spring training is just getting started. On the other hand, days into spring training, the Yankees have been confronted by a major injury that’ll carry over into May. The road to the playoffs has gotten all the more bumpy, and the Yankees are left considering what options they have for a temporary fill-in.

There’s not much on the active roster. There’s not much off the active roster, either, and right now the third Yankees’ outfielder probably stands to be Juan Rivera or Matt Diaz. As general managers always say, Brian Cashman said he’ll look at everything. As general managers also almost always say, Cashman said for the time being, replacement options are internal. The Yankees do have all spring to figure something out.

Now, one has to look at this in the right frame of mind. Curtis Granderson is a very good player, and missing him is problematic. Jon Morosi referred to the injury news as “devastating“. But Granderson doesn’t stand to miss the entire season, or even the majority of it. A 10-week timeline puts him on schedule to miss a fifth of the year. We can round up and call it a quarter, since Granderson will have to go on some sort of rehab assignment, since he will have missed spring training. Let’s just say that Granderson will miss about the first 41 games.

Last year, Mark Teixeira started 121 games, and didn’t start 41 games. The Yankees won 23 of those 41 games, whereas applying the winning percentage in Teixeira’s starts would’ve yielded 24 wins. This doesn’t prove anything, but it’s a point. Perhaps more saliently, the Yankees were 13-11 when Mariano Rivera went down for the year with a major injury. That was said to be devastating, and the Yankees finished 82-56. The Yankees survived the prolonged absence of Rivera, and they should survive the less prolonged absence of Curtis Granderson.

Switching over to the NHL for a minute, just because it seems timely and appropriate, one could consider the current Ottawa Senators. Early in the season, Ottawa lost Jason Spezza to back surgery, and Spezza is a premier first-line center. Not long ago, Ottawa also lost Erik Karlsson to an Achilles injury, and Karlsson might be the league’s best defenseman. These are two overlapping, potentially crippling injuries, and since Karlsson went down, Ottawa’s won four of five games. The general point is this: in team sports, involving several different players, it’s easy to overstate the impact of losing one player in particular. Baseball isn’t basketball, and the Yankees are more than Curtis Granderson.

Here’s the super simple math. By various measures, Granderson projects to be worth three or four wins in 2013. The Yankees have a bunch of approximately replacement-level internal options. Take Granderson out for 41 games and the Yankees are down about a win or so. That’s just average, that’s just probability, and in reality the Yankees could struggle far more out of the gate, but at the same time the Yankees could also overachieve because anything’s possible over a fraction of one season. Missing Granderson is only as devastating as missing about one win is devastating.

So ignore the story about how the Yankees are down so many home runs. What matters is overall value, and as much as the replacements aren’t Curtis Granderson, they only have to fill in for one month and change. Then Granderson will be back, and it shouldn’t take long before he’s at or around 100%.

But now here’s the issue. The Yankees aren’t, say, the Tigers or the Reds, a team projected to win the division by a handful of games. It’s conceivable that any team in the AL East could win the AL East, and the Yankees aren’t markedly better than the competition. In a race projected to be so tight, a win is important, because that one win could mean the difference between making the playoffs and missing the playoffs. The Yankees, in other words, appear to be in a high-leverage spot on the win curve.

So this injury isn’t good news, and the Yankees will have to make sure they find the best fill-in possible. Both Diaz and Rivera are mediocre defenders who can hit lefties and who struggle against righties. Melky Mesa doesn’t project to be good, and neither does Zoilo Almonte, which isn’t surprising since neither has demonstrated great discipline in the minors. Thomas Neal spent last year in double-A, and Adonis Garcia spent just part of last year in double-A. Ronnier Mustelier might be the most intriguing internal option, but he turned 28 while playing in triple-A last summer and his performance was unspectacular.

The free-agent options are fairly miserable, with Johnny Damon, Bobby Abreu, and Scott Podsednik looking for work. The option most people are talking about is Alfonso Soriano, who’s still under contract with the Cubs. Soriano projects to be worth about two wins, but he was just worth about four, and the Cubs are looking for prospects in return in a deal. They’d eat a lot of Soriano’s salary, but they’d expect value back, and Soriano’s also under contract for multiple seasons, which has been turning the Yankees off. Additionally, it’s possible that Soriano’s no-trade clause could be a factor.

The Yankees haven’t really wanted to trade for Soriano yet. The talk now reminds me of when people wondered whether the Rangers might make a play for Michael Bourn once it became possible that Nelson Cruz could be suspended. It didn’t seem to me like a potential 50-game absence would change the Rangers’ minds about something with multiyear implications. It’s similar here — though Soriano would be a lesser investment than Bourn, the Yankees probably won’t be swayed because Granderson might miss a month and a half. That all depends, however, on the Cubs’ asking price, though now the Cubs know the Yankees might be desperate.

There are still more options, though. This is the time of year that teams try to slip players through waivers, and there are fringe outfielders out there who are out of minor-league options. Jose Tabata is essentially out of a job with the Pirates, and he’s been reasonably productive, but he’s under contract through 2016. Maybe a better option would be Casper Wells, who has years of team control but who isn’t locked into a guaranteed multiyear deal. Wells is a righty outfielder capable of playing all three positions, and he’s basically fighting Jason Bay for a job. The Mariners signed Bay for a reason, and if he performs in Arizona the Mariners will probably want to keep him around, freezing Wells out. Wells projects to be the better player in both the short-term and the long-term, but the Mariners like Bay’s experience and leadership value and they haven’t been big fans of Wells since his arrival from Detroit.

Wells is an above-replacement player, and he’s probably deserving of a starting job. He might be available, or he might become available, and he could slide back into a backup role upon Granderson’s return. He’d still get his playing time, since he can play everywhere and since the three Yankees outfield regulars are left-handed. Wells would be preferable to the Yankees’ other in-house options, and it’s doubtful he would cost a premium prospect. He seems to me like a good compromise between overreacting to the injury and underreacting to the injury. Though the Yankees don’t stand to be crippled, they do stand to be hurt, and Wells could help out in the short-term while sticking around for a while as quality depth.

I don’t know if Wells will be available, and I don’t know what he could cost. Obviously, those are the two most critical factors, but this is the sort of player I think the Yankees should be targeting. Soriano might cost too much, and there aren’t many other quality options. Even if the Yankees stay internal, though, they shouldn’t pay too much of a price. They have, at least, replacement-level players, and if they opt for one of the guys from the minors, maybe they catch temporary lightning in a temporary bottle. We’re talking about a projected one-win subtraction, and while the Yankees are in a position where that one win could be important, it’s also just one win out of the 85 or 90 the team ought to amass. This injury isn’t going to cause the Yankees to miss the playoffs, not on its own. And now there’s an opportunity for them to bolster their depth.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


51 Responses to “Temporarily Replacing Curtis Granderson”

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  1. Benzedrine says:

    If Wells winds up in NY, there will likely be a “playing for my favorite team growing up” story.

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  2. Mr Midnight says:

    If wells ends up in new York the angels would have to take about 40 of the 42 million he’s still owed to get a deal done.

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  3. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Great article.

    Not necessarily a need to cite hockey (a sport I do not condone nor understand) when baseball in 2012 furnished us with the Nationals, who lost Zimmerman, Werth, Storen, Morse and three starting catchers while winning a division.

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    • I just had to fit Ottawa in somewhere because I really love Ottawa and that shit’s going on right now.

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      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        I love Ottawa as well. It is an endearing facsimile of English culture in the Americas, but with superior doughnuts.

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        • Jonathan Sher says:

          Superior doughnuts? Canada is inundated with Tim Hortons franchises but no one goes there for doughnuts that make Dunkin’ Donuts look good by comparison — the business is based entirely on decent, predictable coffee and strumming on patriotic duties to patronage a once-Canadian owned business.

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        • Neil says:

          Actually, Tim Horton’s is Canadian-owned, again. Wendy’s sold it off to shareholders in 2006, it was reorganized in 2009 as a Canadian public company.

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        • Oasis says:

          That’s nice since the US has the superior hockey team in the Blackhawks ;)

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  4. joser says:

    Considering how even “premium” Yankees prospects have turned out for the Mariners, maybe they should just give Wells away to another team just to get out of this discussion entirely. (But hey Yankees: you could probably get Raul back if you ask nicely. He still wants to run around in the outfield and he’s more the AARP demographic that fits into your clubhouse.)

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  5. Ted Nelson says:

    Excellent analysis.

    “So ignore the story about how the Yankees are down so many home runs. What matters is overall value”

    Amen. All the lost HR talk is driving me nuts. Certainly Granderson is a big loss on paper, but people’s urge to isolate only his power numbers has really been distorting most analysis of the situation.

    I agree that Casper Wells is a very intriguing option. Even before Granderson went down I would say he was.

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  6. Nick says:

    I think the Yanks should look to the Cubs, but not for Soriano. David DeJesus would be a great fit. He would cost less in terms of years and dollars and would be a nice 4th OF to have once Granderson returns.

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  7. Kevin B says:

    I didn’t realize the Yankees were so thin in terms of outfielders – why do they not have anybody else there that can fill in as a big leaguer?

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  8. Mr Midnight says:

    There very thin. I watched Wells when he was at the tigers and i found him very intriguing then. If the.cubs only asked the Yankees to take on a few million of Sorianos contract and were resonable in what they asked for prospect wise he could be a very Intresting option, I’m sure when Curtis got back he would get plenty Ab’s At DH or as a pinch hitter. If I had to put my money on it though I think Diaz will fill in till Granderson is back then will use him as a bench bat…a

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    • Baltar says:

      Assuming the Cubs don’t eat nearly all of Soriano’s contract, trading for him would ruin the Yankees goal of getting under the luxury tax cutoff in 2014. They need one of the cheaper options.

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  9. Big Jgke says:

    That’s real nice hustle by JA Happ to take out the 2nd best player on the number one team in the division. Gotta think that locked down a roster spot for him, no?

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  10. jim says:

    why does tabata have that contract, again?

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  11. Basil Ganglia says:

    Casper Wells was my immediate first thought of an option for the Yankees.

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  12. Steve says:

    It’s kindof amusing that most of the options are former yankees. Damon, Abreu, Tabata, Soriano….

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  13. Ryan says:

    I think the bigger issue is that the Yankees didn’t have a large margin for error to begin with.

    Look at who they’re relying on this season. This is a team that has already lost some productive players in the offseason (Swisher, Chavez, Martin)

    Jeter – Rehabbing from Ankle Surgery
    Mariano – Rehabbing from Knee Surgery
    A-Rod – Rehabbing from Hip Problems, Out 2+ months
    Granderson – Out for 40ish games
    Ichiro – 39, coming off replacement level season
    Pettitte – 41, coming off partial season.
    Gardner – Coming off missed season for elbow

    Obviously, the Yankees still have elite talent (Cano, Sabathia, Kuroda, Teixeira) but if you’re relying on this group of players being healthy and productive for the whole season you can’t have fluke injuries happening to a relatively young (32) and productive member of this squad.

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    • Spit Ball says:

      Ryan, you are spot on. That outfield was thin to begin with. Say what you will about Grandyman but he has been if nothing else a 40 homer 100run/100RBI bat the last couple years. Plus he got hit up the forearm by the wrist. We’ve all seen how that can go. How does Gardner play in Center after an injury riddled year. He’s at the age where his defense could decline back to earth a bit, you know maybe just +5 with the shift to center. Ichiro still has speed etc. but can he really be penciled in for more then a win. When Tex went down last year they had Chavez and Swisher to fill in. Tex and Cano need to be big for this team this year. As far as the Rivera thing, I’m not sure I’d want him over Soriano at this point or even last year. They have a ridiculously deep bullpen and some younger guys who can start such as Phelps and Warren but they are counting on some oldies but goodies to give them innings. Their were just so many questions to begin with which Ryan started to list above but I could add about five more off the top of my head. They had one power hitting outfielder and now they have none. Their catching is bad, the left side of their infield is well; old. Kuroda is 38, Pettite 41, Sabathia slipped a bit last year, Who is Michael Pineda, is Tex a 2 WAR player or a 5 WAR player, how is Phil Hughes back doing, can Rivera keep being the man at 43 coming off a torn ACL. So many questions. It’s hard to write them off because every year we wait for the bottom to fall out or at least wonder if they will. I think Sabathia and Cano will manage 10 WAR between them and perhaps that is conservative. Besides that i have no idea and I don’t think anyone does. Besides the outfield would anyone be totally shocked if Jeter, Youk, Rodriguez and the catcher position combined for 3-5 WAR? I would not. My projection is that they will neither lose or win 100 games. They will be somewhere in between. Ask the Sox; When the sh&t hits the fan its easy to pile up losses in the AL EAST.

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  14. LaLoosh says:

    jeez, I hope the Yanks don’t get Wells who does a lot of things well (no pun intended). It would be their dumb luck to fall into a player like that. I was thinking more in terms of Jason Kubel who would be perfect playing in Yankee Stadium. I still can’t believe the DBacks think they could be better off having Parra sit on the bench as a 4th OFer. I realize the Yankees aren’t exactly flush with desirable prospects to trade away but if they can patch together enough I would think Kubel works even with Hafner slated as DH.

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    • Spit Ball says:

      If you thik you are gonna get Kubel you can kiss Robertson and Phelps goodbye. Takes something to get something. Plus Kubel is no outfielder. You might as well sign Thome to DH and send Pronk out to pasture with the leather.

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  15. Jake says:

    The Sens are a poor example. Sure, they managed to win those few games but they went from scoring an average 4 goals per game to 2 goals per game after Karlsson’s injury. They squeeked out a few close games but the lack of goal-scoring will catch up with them eventually.

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  16. Kazinski says:

    Problem with a Casper Wells to the Yankees scenario is that the M’s are a long way from making a decision on the Bay-Wells debate. It would be ludicrous to decide give Bay a roster spot 2 days into his comeback, and if Bay does not pan out, and Casper is gone then the M’s are in a world(er) of hurt. You have got to think that Wells would have the edge in any case in any sane world.

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    • LaLoosh says:

      worst case is that Bay will be the M’s 5th OFer anyway and if Gutierrez is healthy (perhaps a big if) there may not be much PT for Wells no matter what.

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      • Kazinski says:

        I really can’t see the Mariners going with Ibanez and Bay as their 4th and 5th outfielders. One of them has to go, because even though the Mariners appear to be moving away from a defense first philosophy I can’t see even Eric Wedge feeling comfortable nursing a one run lead and looking for a late game defensive replacement for Morse and looking down the bench and only seeing Ibanez and Bay. Morse and Bay are both coming off of multiple seasons with significant time on the DL, and Ibanez is 40.

        Then to make the decision even easier to keep Wells, Ibanez, Morse, Bay, and even Morales are all free agents next year, with Gutierrez under a 7.5m team option and there is nobody in the pipeline in the minors that projects to be a starting outfielder within the next couple of years. In fact their best outfield prospect is 19 year old Gabriel Guerrero who’s never played higher than the rookie league.

        It really would be ridiculous to trade away a young cost controlled outfielder with even just a little potential when you have nothing else but injury prone un-athletic veterans on short term contracts in the system.

        If Bay has a great spring then they trade him for what they can get, otherwise they let him go. It made sense to take a flyer on Bay before they got Morse, but I can’t see them getting rid of Wells to keep him.

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        • Spike says:

          Ibanez/Bay are more or less the plan for LF, no? Saunders in CF and Morse in RF? Gutierrez the 5th OFer? Wells may already be on the outside looking in. That’s assuming Smoak stays at 1B, Morales DHes, and Montero does most of the catching until Zunino comes up later in the year. If they bail on Smoak and use Morse at 1B then Wells could still have room there I suppose. It’s kinda crowded there already.

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        • Kazinski says:

          I think Gutierrez is/should be the favorite to play center everyday. If he can stay healthy then he is 15 runs better than Saunders out there (+10 vs -5). And 40 runs better than Ibanez/Bey.

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    • Spit Ball says:

      That is such a sad competition. It reminds me of the Yankees catching competition. No good, nowhere, for no one. Yeah we wanted Hamilton or Upton but…………..

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  17. MSpitz says:

    A reference to my favourite hockey team as they’re going through a very tough time right now? I love you, Jeff Sullivan.

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  18. Paul says:

    The yankmees are in trouble. I do not know what their farm system has for prospects or capable payers. i believe what they need to do is figure out how much $ they will need to sign Robison Cano. I believe his agent is Scott I hate theb Yankees Boras so you know thats going to cost extra from the start. Once they figure what they have available dtermine whether or not theycan actually sign him? If they can’t trade him to Texas for Kinsler, their right fielder Nelsob Cruz( I think) and a top farm hand . I blieve they have a top shortstop prospect who is supposed to be very good. Thats the best I got. Texas I think would give this offer some very serious consideration. Anyones thoughts about it?

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    • Kazinski says:

      The market on a rental player that’s going to be impossible to sign to an extension just isn’t what you think it is. If the Yankees deal Cano during the season I’d be surprised if they get more than a mid level prospect for him. He was ranked #46 on Cameron’s trade value series back in July, when he had more time left on his contract, I’m sure he’s dropped way out of the top 50 now. Ian Kinsler was ranked 30th then because he’s a productive veteran on a team friendly contract through 2018. He may have dropped a little but not much since.

      So trading Cano to fill a hole in the outfield is just going to leave another big hole in the infield, cause there is no way they are going to turn one year of even a premium rent-a-player into two decent starting position players.

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  19. JAH says:

    Go Leafs am I right, Jeff?

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  20. miffleball says:

    they’ve brought it up on WFAN locally, but what about eduardo nunez being converted to OF? People talk about jeter moving to LF as an athletic SS, why not do it to get nunez on the field?

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    • Spit Ball says:

      Sounds like an idea, Neither one is really a shortstop anyway, says every advanced defensive metric known to man. I think they should go with two DH’s and just use Suzuki in right center and Gardner in left center. They got good range, they could do it. If only jet packs were available. Would MLB ban outfielders from wearing jet packs. I actually think it would be pretty cool to see Gardner “go up and get one” on one of Bautista’s third deckers at the Rogers center.

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  21. Keith says:

    Might Cashman and co.–subconsciously at least–be punting until they get past the luxury tax issue/ catcher Gary Sanchez and the myriad outfield prospects are big-league ready? Otherwise why let Russell Martin go? Moreover, they’ve won a gazillion years and a row and many key players are now falling apart. Could it be that this is rebuilding, Yankees-style?

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    • Scooby says:

      No. In your theory, re-signing Kuroda wouldn’t make sense. Also re-upping Ichiro is questionable. Sure he remains a big Japanese name-brand that could bring in additional revenues but the Yankees have enough big names on the team. If they were truly rebuilding, anyone not tied to a huge contract should be on the trading block. I’d start with Cano, Hughes, and Robertson (who could very well close on another team).

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  22. Ryan says:

    I guess this is Karma for the fans cheering when Bautista hurt his wrist.

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  23. Jerry says:

    Jeff is right. The media has been predicting the Yankees demise for years due to age and injury-related problems. And when fans talk about the team, they pretty much assume the worst, aka, that every player over 35 is going down for the year or about to experience a serious decline. This is no more realistic than a rosy-eyed optimistic projection for these players. The truth lies somewhere in between. The AL East is more competitive, and the Yankees are not a playoff lock, but they’re still right in the mix of things.

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  24. yAnkEEs#23-4LifE says:

    I think this opens the door for Ca$h to trade Granderson, Banulos, Betances, Hughes, and maybe a upside arm like Brackman for Mike Stanton of the Marlins. They are always looking to dump there guys. No way the Yanks loose out on a big time guy, and this would set them up to win the World series every year. It would hurt to loose the killer Bees but Nova and Phillips are developing into Aces and Petitte could win 20 games for the next two years.

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  25. bcp33bosox says:

    Interesting article, as usual Jeff. Thanks for your take. Out of curiosity, has anybody at FG ever done an article on major injuries (let’s just say an arbitrary number of 4-8 weeks on the DL for examples sake), on player performance once returning? I think as a fan I often expect (maybe “hope for” is a better choice of words) his normal level of performance, as soon as player X is back in there. However, from memory, which we all know can fail us miserably at times, it feels like a lot of major injuries are followed by substantial periods of mediocre play upon returning to the line up. Ellsbury ’12, Pedroia ’10, Youk ’11/’12 and Ortiz ’08/’12 come to mind as examples in recent years. Heck, maybe it’s just the key injuries in Boston the last few years and 93 losses clogging my judgement. It seems to me that when the injury occurs, the player’s age, injury history and maybe most importantly the type of injury (ligering effects) could all be factors. As far as missing spring training, well it is better than missing regular season games is one way to look at it, but does it affect a batter’s performance to miss most of spring training more than missing 8-10 weeks in the summer? Which is more harmful to the team’s performance? We often hear mainstream media claim a certain type of injury is more serious than others, but does actual time missed and the date of injury have any further negative/positive effects?

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