Reevaluating the Granderson trade

To make matters worse, for the second straight year one of the players the Yankees gave up is having a fantastic season in their new home. Last year it was Ian Kennedy emerging as a Cy Young candidate in Arizona, this year it’s Austin Jackson having an elite season at the plate in Detroit. Jackson is hitting a whopping .322/.407/.515 for the Tigers while continuing to play an above average centerfield. That batting line translates to a wRC+ of 152, and Jackson is outperforming in just about every offensive category other than home runs, RBI, and runs, but A-Jax also spent time on the disabled list this season.

Be that as it may, I’m not really interested in using hindsight to evaluate the decisions made back in 2009. Jackson has turned into a very nice player for Detroit, but he’s also clearly blown away the projections most prospect watchers had in mind for him. Not only has he continued to thumb his nose at the luck dragon (.402 BABIP) he’s developed power and patience to an extent that he never really did while he was a Yankee farmhand. In fact, Jackson has a 12.2% walk rate and .193 ISO so far this season, both of which are quite good in their own right, but look even better when you compare them to the 7.2% and .105 marks he recorded in 2009 for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, respectively.

On the other hand, as William Juliano observed yesterday, the new CBA and the Yankees’ resulting future budget plans do give us cause to re-think the implications of the trade. While Granderson has been more than good enough to make the Yankees shake off the success Kennedy and Jackson have had over the past few seasons, his current contract ends after the 2013 season, just before the Yankees must get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, per a directive from ownership. With Nick Swisher’s contract expiring after this season, the Yankees currently have two holes in the outfield, and the only current starting pitchers on their major league team who remain under control for 2014 are C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and David Phelps. Considering that, I think general manager Brian Cashman would feel much better about the team’s future if Jackson and Kennedy were both in the fold right now.

This is my biggest problem with the baseball implications of the austerity budget plans. The question isn’t so much whether or not the team can strive to get payroll down in the long run, or whether the Yankees can win with a $189 million payroll, it’s whether they can win in 2014 with a hard spending limit in place while dealing with the constraints placed on them by existing commitments. It’s also that so many major recent decisions have been made under the assumption of a much higher future payroll window. The Alex Rodriguez contract gets the most attention among these consequential spending decisions, but trading away Jackson and Kennedy could be the move that ultimately hurts the Yankees the most if Hal Steinbrenner’s desire to increase profits impedes the Yankees’ ability to plug the holes in their current roster once 2014 rolls around.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

3 thoughts on “Reevaluating the Granderson trade

  1. Shoot – the Yankees will have a hard time winning (meaning, what really counts – the WS) even with unlimited spending. The one thing the team has proven is that spending money does not automatically yield championship rings.

    Bring on austerity – it can't be much worse than what we have now. I'd almost rather have a hungry young guy than a veteran that's fat, dumb, happy, and already has his long term contract.

  2. Look back at the trade in a year and we may feel differently again.

    Kennedy doesn’t bother me. His successful year is bookended with two average years. And IPK gets to eat up NL West lineups. Look, AJ is having a better year than IPK, but no one wants a do-over for that one. Some guys don’t succeed with NYY—whether due to AL East, the AL in general, the supposed pressure of pitching in NY, or something else. IPK hasn’t convinced me that he would have fared nearly as well as NYY. He’d be another back end starter that fans are looking to replace with someone more established.

    AJax is an interesting case. He would’ve been an upgrade in 2010 over Melky, who was traded away. But would the Yankees have gone into the season starting Gardner (who hadn’t been full time to that point) and AJax? I would’ve been surprised if so. So in my mind, the comparison is Gardner or AJax and to date the former has been more valuable when healthy.

  3. I have no qualms about moving Kennedy. I see him as on a similar level as Nova or Phelps. The Yankees have had depth with these types of pitchers. It's extremely curious that Jackson is taking lots of walks all of the sudden. This example makes one wonder how plate discipline can be learned and it adds to the difficulty in projecting walk rates in the majors from lower levels of play.