As reported by Jon Heyman on Friday, the Yankees plan to extend qualifying offers to Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda, but the team remains on the fence about Curtis Granderson. The one-year $14.1 million contract offer could potentially net the Yankees a first-round compensation pick in the 2014 June draft, but it would also put the team at the risk of re-signing the center fielder for 2014. With a $189 million budget in the works, the team must operate conservatively with their qualifying offers, and having Granderson accept the deal could put a wrench in their plans.
Today is the deadline for teams to make that qualifying offer to departing free agents. The Yankees have a decision to make, and without the benefit of knowing who will be back next season, especially Alex Rodriguez, the team’s plans are in a state of flux. Offering Granderson a qualifying offer is a delicate procedure when they’re trying to get the most for their money, but even outside of the potential draft pick, the team has good enough reason to try and re-sign the outfielder to that qualifying offer.
Perhaps the biggest deterrent for the Yankees is their current depth in the outfield. Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, and Ichiro Suzuki will make the 2014 club barring any unexpected injury, retirement, or trade. The Yankees also have Zoilo Almonte and Ramon Flores who could potentially make the team out of Spring Training. The Yankees also have a number of outfield prospects, which include Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams. Though the three prospects are unlikely to make an immediate impact on the 2014 club, there’s an outside chance that they could be a part of next season’s team by the end of the year.
In comparison to the holes at second base and the questions in the rotation, it’s difficult to justify spending a large amount of money for another outfielder. But the Yankees need home runs. For all the potential replacements in the organization, none of them could possibly produce a 40 home run season like Granderson has done in the past. The lack of power that could plague the team in 2014 showed itself in the first half of the 2013 season, and Yankee fans should no longer take for granted Granderson’s ability to hit the ball over the short porch in right field.
But at 33 years old next season, Granderson is unlikely to accept the qualifying offer. Even with the chance to rebuild his value through the one year contract, this may be his last chance to get a lengthy deal as teams will become increasingly suspicious of decline as he enters his mid-30’s. There are few left-handed hitters that can do produce his power, and despite the fluke injuries of 2013, he should have no problems finding a suitor willing to go multiple years. Though a $14.1 million AAV may be a challenge to obtain, especially when he’ll cost a number of teams a draft pick, there’s a huge risk in postponing his free agency to 2014-2015 and opting for the shorter contract.
Most fans, as well as the front office, are frustrated by the strike outs and decline in contact rates, but it’s difficult to overlook his power and walks. I don’t see Granderson accepting a qualifying offer, not as a 33 year old with potentially his only big opportunity on the free agent market. And even if the outfielder were to opt for the one-year qualifying offer to rebuild his value, the Yankees could sure use the home runs. Even if it means dealing with all the strike outs, 2013 taught many fans to appreciate the power, and $14.1 million won’t often buy you 40+ homers.