Curtis Granderson versus Austin Jackson, where do we stand now?

About three years ago, just after winning the 2009 World Series, the Yankees traded Austin Jackson, an up and coming prospect in the team’s farm system, for Curtis Granderson, an established commodity in Detroit. The Yankees were trading potential for performance. Jackson wasn’t developing as quickly as a hitter as the Yankees wanted, while Granderson was a proven power hitter with some bad tendencies (namely, striking out too often). The Yankees were betting that Jackson wouldn’t develop, or wouldn’t develop quickly enough, and that his ceiling was essentially Curtis Granderson.

The deal was a flop, at first. Jackson burst out of the gate in Detroit, aided by an insane .530 BABIP in his first month. Granderson, on the other hand, struggled in his first month in New York before going down with an injury in May. Even though it was only a small sample, it looked as if the Yankees had made a mistake. By season’s end, however, it wasn’t as clear. Jackson’s strike outs finally got the better of him, and he finished the year with a good but not great .329 wOBA and a 4.0 fWAR, aided by his defense. Granderson, meanwhile, developed a new swing with Kevin Long and went on a tear that began in August 2010 and didn’t end pretty much until early 2012. Granderson’s 2010 wOBA was a respectable .344 and he finished with an injury reduced 3.6 fWAR. The first season of the trade was a bit of a wash, but the fundamentals favored the Yankees.

2011 was all about Curtis. Granderson had his best season as a pro. He hit 41 homers. He had a .393 wOBA. He accumulated 7.0 fWAR. His .262/.364/.552 slash line put him solidly in the MVP conversation and the effect of his new swing made Kevin Long look like a genius. Jackson, on the other hand, struggled in 2011. He managed a paltry .249/.317/.374 slash line, which translated into a .305 wOBA for a below average 88 wRC+. If the 2010 season hinted that the deal favored the Yankees then the 2011 season confirmed it.

The Pinstripes weren’t so lucky in 2012. Curtis remained an insane power threat. He hit a career high 43 homers. But his strike out rate jumped up to 28.5%, far and away a career high. In total he managed an uneven .232/.319/.492 slash line, good for a .346 wOBA. Curtis turned into a binary outcome player: home run or strike out. Jackson, meanwhile, bounced back. His slash line was .300/.377/.479, which translated into a .371 wOBA. Combine that with his excellent defense and Jackson won the fWAR competition 5.5 to 2.6. (It should be noted that Granderson’s defense penalizes him in fWAR and the defensive metrics leave a lot to be desired.)

So, who’s got the upper hand so far? It may seem hard to believe after his disappointing 2012, but Curtis has still been the more productive player. Since joining the Yankees Granderson is batting .247/.337/.506, which translates into a .362 wOBA. He’s accumulated 13.2 fWAR. That’s just a bit better than Jackson’s production. Austin has bat .280/.346/.416 over that stretch, a .335 wOBA. He’s accumulated 12.4 fWAR.

2013 will be critical in determining if the Yankees made the right decision for the long haul. If Curtis can bounce back in 2013 then he could easily put up 5 or 6 fWAR and leave no doubt that he’s still one of the best power hitting center fielders in the game. But if he struggles, and if Jackson’s development continues, Yankee fans may find themselves second guessing this trade, especially if the Yankees don’t keep Granderson.

18 thoughts on “Curtis Granderson versus Austin Jackson, where do we stand now?

  1. Alan

    Jackson is a nice player but strikes out way to much. Even if Curtis doesn’t stick around I can live without Jackson. I don’t think we traded away the next Joe D.

  2. didn’t we also give up a starting pitcher to Arizona and Phil coke who is now Detroit closer.
    Len

  3. Phil C

    If the Yankees win a WS with Granderson playing a significant role, then it was a good trade. If not, then I’d rather have Jackson (and IPK) for the longer haul.

  4. L.A.S

    The Yankees also gave up Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke in this 3 way trade with Detriot and Arizona. In my opinion this was another Brian Cashman mistake.

    • Going into 2010, where did either one of Coke or Kennedy fit on the Yankee roster?

    • Frank Spero

      why not get rid of cashman the asshole who has been getting rid of all these good players that come back all the time and bite him on the ass

  5. Comnsnse

    Echo LAS, Jackson is and will be a better average hitter albeit with less power. Jackson is the superior defender with a better arm and range. Jackson is a better baserunner. Kennedy has won over 30 games in two years and Coke would have been equal to Boone Logan or Rapada. No contest,Cashman has bumbled every trade except Swisher and should have been fired.

    Without the Yankke dollar they don’ t win in 09 or in this century!

  6. BeanTooth

    Not only is there the issue of who else the Yanks gave up in the trade, there’s the fact that those three are all still under cheap team control. Imagine how much easier the 2014 payroll looks with the center fielder, plus a mid-rotation starter and solid reliever all making peanuts. I love Curtis, but this was not a good trade.

  7. Miguel

    Another example of how much the front office fears the farm system. If I remember correctly, Jackson was our top prospect at that time, just before Montero made a name for himself. But out of fear of starting two rookies in the outfield(Brett+Austin), management had to trade him away for a more established player.

  8. RJ

    I never liked the trade. I thought Jackson would be a star. He’s just starting to show some pop with 16 home runs and he’s only turning 26 in February and is 5 years younger than Granderson. Although Granderson hit 43 home runs his slugging percentage was slightly better than Jackson, .492 vs. .479, plus he struck out 60 more times than Jackosn. I would trade Granderson for Jackson in a heart beat.

  9. roadrider

    20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. Most of these fans would have wanted to run Jackson out of town on a rail last season and would have been ripping Cashman for missing the opportunity to trade him for Granderson. I really doubt IPK would be as successful in NY as he has been with Arizona. Coke is only a “closer” by default and he has a huge platoon split which was exposed in the WS. LOOGYs just aren’t worth pining over.

  10. hawaii dave

    As noted, 2013 will give a lot more information. Knowing everything we do, I’d take Jackson for the future if I had a choice…but it’s really been a push thus far…unless you try to equate the pitchers we also lost in that trade.

  11. tanzo

    Wow, how soon do we forget. After 2009, we lost 4 OF’s, two of which, Damon and Matsui accounted for over 52 HR’s and 172 RBI’s. Melky was traded and Nady didn’t work out. There wasn’t much out there in the FA market. Granderson could play CF and Gardner play LF. Granderson would replace the power lost by Damon and Matsui where Gardner and Melky could not. Jackson was still a few years away. Kennedy was in the rotation but couldn’t hold on to the position. 2008 he started 9 games and had a 8.17 ERA. Our rotation was going to be Hughes, Joba, AJ, CC, Pettitte, and maybe Wang who was coming back from injury. So there really was no room for kennedy at the time. Coke had a 4.50 ERA with a 103 ERA+ and pitched in 60 games. We also had Marte as the lefty in the pen who was coming back after pitching 4 innings in the WS and not giving up a hit! At the time, it was a good trade which filled many needs in the short term.

    • I totally agree and couldn’t have put it any better.

  12. Nick

    What is all of this fWAR and wOBA bullshit? The yanks got the shit end of the stick. Cashman could not be patient with Ajax. It does not take fWAR to tell that He would have been a stud in the Yankee line up

  13. Joeshitheragman

    The X factor is that Ajax was a home grown player, and we get behind our home grown talent more than we do players that we sign through free agency or trade.

  14. Patrick Oliver

    Jackson is better than Granderson.

  15. Chris

    The biggest thing to take into account was that this trade was made under the old CBA, no one knew the Yankees would have a budget of any kind come 2014, least of all the Yankees. So trying to use that as a reason it was a dumb trade simply makes no sense, under the circumstances at the time it made all the sense in the world. Kennedy would likely have been an OK pitcher in the AL but no where near what he did in 2011, likely much closer to his 2012 (4.02 ERA/4.04 FIP) or worse. Plus he wasn’t going to be given the chance to raise his stock any at the time of the trade. Anyone crying over Phil Coke needs to go back and remember all the hate Coke got on blogs when he was pitching for the Yankees, I’ll take Boone Logan any day.

    Given the new CBA criteria back then they may not have made the trade again, but you don’t get to back in time with that kind of information so I’m not going to sit here and bash the thing in hindsight. At the end of the day the Yankees have been a better team because of Granderson, that’s all that really matter.

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