People have asked me to judge the big trade of the winter meetings, and I have been reluctant to do it because Curtis Granderson is one of my favorite players. This is not entirely because he asked me to be his Facebook friend, though I suspect that makes up a percentage of it. I also like the way he plays, the way he carries himself, the way he represents the game. I like the way he wears his socks. I like the thoughtful answers he gives to questions. I like in that in 2007 he pulled off the quad-20 -- 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers, 20 stolen bases.*
*Only four men have pulled that off, the least known of those being the underrated Frank "Wildfire" Schulte in 1911. Wildfire led the league in home runs, slugging and OPS+ that year. He never came close to having that good a year again. Willie Mays did it in 1957 and Jimmy Rollins did it 50 years later, the same year as Granderson.
I really like Curtis Granderson, so that probably colors my view of the deal. But since people have asked, I'll just put my opinion out there: I think the Yankees just made a crazy steal. I mean a CRAZY steal. I mean, hey, I don't know how the prospects they traded will turn out -- none of them seem especially interesting to me -- but it doesn't matter. This isn't about prospects.
No, there was one star in this trade -- and the Yankees got him. You do have to hand it to Brian Cashman and crew. The Yankees played their usual game of buzzard. They flew circles around a team that wanted to dump a contract. Granderson has more than $25 million coming to him over the next three years, which is real money in most places. Fortunately, in the Bronx, they have that kind of money lying around in the petty cash drawer. Granderson will be the 11th-highest-paid player on the Yankees in 2010. And that's not including Johnny Damon or Roy Halladay or any other big moves not yet made.
Call it smart business, call it unfair economics, call it whatever you like. The Yankees got Curtis Granderson to play center field. And people who have not been paying attention are about to find out how good this guy really is.
And yes, I know, he has his flaws -- people have spent a lot of time talking about those flaws lately. The big one is that he can't hit left-handed pitching. Last year, his worst year, he hit a dreadful .183/.245/.239 against lefties. And over a career he's only hitting .210/.270/.344 against lefties -- it's a real issue.
But I would want to make three points:
1. The Yankees annihilate left-handed pitching. They hit .286/.365/.480 as a team against lefties in 2009. With Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira ... teams are not going to be loading up lefties against the Yankees.
2. Two of the best lefties in the American League -- CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte -- are ON the Yankees. Granderson has over the last few years been in a division with Sabathia, Mark Buehrle, Cliff Lee, Johan Santana (0 for 12 against him), Francisco Liriano, John Danks. Now, really, there is one great non-Yankee lefty starter in the division in Jon Lester, and a couple of promising young guys -- my point is that I don't think lefty pitchers will be as much of a factor for Granderson in the American League East.
3. People are right to talk about lefty/righty, but they might want to talk about ballparks, too. Comerica Park has consistently depressed Granderson's numbers. This was especially true last year -- it was his worst year, but away from home he hit a much more tolerable .267/.345/.516 with 20 homers. He hit 37 points lower with a slugging percentage more than 100 points lower at home. That's extreme, but he has hit better away from Comerica every full season of his career. Put him in the pinball machine that is Yankee Stadium ... and watch the numbers tilt.
That's the Granderson side of things. Now, look at the Yankees side. Last year the Yankees -- at eight of the nine positions in the lineup -- had a player who had at one point in his career either:
1. Hit better than .330 in a seasonor2. Hit more than 30 homers in a season.
Or, if you want to put it another way: Last year the Yankees -- at eight of the nine positions in the lineup -- had a player who had at one point in his career either:
1. Scored 100 runs in a seasonor2. Knocked in 100 runs in a season.
Or, one other way: Last year (just last year) the Yankees -- at eight of the nine positions in the lineup -- had players with 125 or better OPS+.*
*It is here where I am obligated to point out that the Kansas City Royals did not have a single regular with an OPS+ of 125 in 2009. But to be fair neither did the crosstown Mets -- or the Pirates, White Sox, Orioles or Athletics.
The point is -- the Yankees had eight stars. The ninth position, of course, was center field, where Melky Cabrera gamely played the beloved YWJDHJ role (Yankee Who Just Does His Job).
Well, now the Yankees have a guy who I think is a superstar in center field ... and not just any superstar, but a likable superstar who plays great defense (it was popular in New York to call Melky an above-average defensive center fielder -- well, they're about to see what one really looks like), who is an excellent base runner, who pulls the ball with power ...
Judge the trade? The Tigers got a couple of good arms and unloaded payroll. The Diamondbacks got ... well, they got burned, I think.
And the Yankees?
They'll be calling it Granderson Central Station by June.