It’s been a typically slow-feeling last week or so in Yankeeland, as some of us are still content to bask in the glow of the World Series victory, while others are looking to stoke the fires of the Hot Stove. I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I’d love to sit back and do nothing but enjoy #27, but at the same time, as a hardcore Yankee fan I’m looking for something new to read about the team every single day, hence the creation of this blog.
Last week’s Yankee rumor du jour involved the team trading for Tigers’ center fielder Curtis Granderson, as Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski has apparently been tasked with cutting payroll. Somewhat less discussed is what the Yankees would actually have to give up to acquire Granderson, although Steve at the Yankee Universe has a great post up about this potential deal (h/t to RAB).
On the face of it, trading for a guy like Granderson to play center seems like a no-brainer. Tossing stats aside for a second, I’ve personally long coveted Granderson, as the Yankees really haven’t had an outfielder with his combination of speed, athleticism, defense and bat in seemingly years (yes, I know this is all subjective — remember, tossing away stats for a sec). Not to mention the fact that Granderson’s sweet left-handed swing seems tailor-made to drop bombs over the short right field porch. Granderson hit 30 home runs last year. The last time the Yankees got 30 home runs out of center field was in 2000 from Bernie Williams.
The Yankees have gotten by with below-average offensive production from their center fielders for the last three seasons, although the platoon of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner came pretty close to respectability in 2009. Still, neither Melky nor Gardner seem destined to be able to effectively hold down a starting outfielder role for an entire 162-game season, and I would certainly not be upset to see either one included in a potential trade for Granderson.
As the Yankee Universe notes, in addition to replacing his star center fielder, Dombrowski would also likely be looking for a young, cost-controlled starter with upside — which the Yankees seem to have in spades at double A — as well as highly touted outfield prospect Austin Jackson. Jackson’s star diminished some after a bit of a disappointing 2009 minor league campaign, and while it was once thought he might be able to start in center for the Yankees it looks like his ceiling may wind up being as a Melky/Gardner-type fourth outfielder. Even if Jackson ended up being an improvement on those two, it’s highly unlikely he’d ever be as good as Granderson, which is why, if the Tigers require Jackson plus another minor league pitcher, Cashman probably needs to make that deal.
Of course, we haven’t touched on Granderson’s kyptonite, which is an inability to hit lefthanded pitching. TYU has his righty and lefty splits from the last four years, and while he didn’t seem to have as much of a problem with lefties in 2008, he got absolutely murdered by them this past year, mustering only a .484 OPS, a number that even Tony Womack could scoff at. Given Granderson’s difficulty with lefties, the thinking is that you’d then platoon him, although it seems a bit shortsighted to trade for a starting center fielder who can’t even start all 162 games.
There was an alternative being bandied about in the RAB comment section last week, spearheaded by RAB legend TSJC, which supported signing Mike Cameron (in addition to bringing back Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui).
While the free agent Cameron is eight years older than Granderson, he also would only cost money instead of players, and had a better 2009 than Granderson. Of course, one year does not a career make, and given his age and track record, Granderson seems very likely to bounce back and produce at a higher level than the 38-year-old Cameron for the duration of both of their careers. Granderson has a career 113 OPS+, while Cameron has a respectable 107 OPS+.
For what it’s worth, Bill James is forecasting a .366 wOBA for Granderson next year, and a .330 for Cameron. If the Yankees are unable to put together an attractive-enough package to nab Granderson, then Cameron would be a decent back-up plan. But if Granderson can be had for some combination of Cabrera, Gardner, Jackson, Zach McAllister, Ivan Nova, Ian Kennedy, Austin Romine and/or spare bullpen part, as TYU suggests, I’d be all for fitting Granderson with pinstripes.