The Yankees were fresh off their first World Series victory in about 10 years when general manager Brian Cashman shook up the team a bit by trading for center fielder Curtis Granderson.
It was a bit of a controversial move as Granderson seemed to be on a downward trend in his career while the Yankees gave up two of their better young prospects to get him in Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson. On top of those two they had to throw in serviceable lefty reliever Phil Coke.
The trade didn’t seem like a great one for the Yankees right from the start as Granderson initially struggled while Jackson had a solid first season as a rookie of the year candidate. Granderson and Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long made a late season adjustment to his swing that got him going in the second half though so it wasn’t a total loss.
After the second year things look quite a bit different. While Jackson still plays superb defense, he has struggled to adjust to major league hitting. Meanwhile Kennedy has turned into a 20-game winner and a Cy Young candidate. The only thing that has kept Yankees fans from calling this deal a bust though is the MVP-caliber season Granderson is putting up this year.
How exactly has this deal worked out for the Yankees?
Granderson put up an fWAR of 3.5 his first season and a 7.0 in his second year for a total of 10.5 fWAR. Kennedy had an fWAR of 5.0 this year, but it was just 2.4 last year, good for 7.4 overall. Jackson’s fWAR was 4.1 in 2010 and 2.8 this season or 6.9 overall. Coke brings up the rear with a 1.1 and 2.0 mark combined for 3.1.
So that gives the Yankees the best player in the deal, but they gained just 10.5 WAR from him in two seasons vs. 17.4 combined from the three players they lost.
Does this mean the deal was a bust for the Yankees? No it doesn’t. Yes, the Yankees certainly gave up a lot in the deal, but to land any good player in a trade you have to give to get and that’s just what they did.
But quality is better than quantity though. In getting Granderson from the Tigers the Yankees landed themselves an elite center fielder, perhaps the best center fielder in baseball (if Matt Kemp weren’t around). That’s no small task as they’ve essentially been trying to replace Bernie Williams since before Bernie was even gone.
Yes they gave up a very solid player in Kennedy, but he is no elite pitcher and serious questions remain whether or not his skills would even translate into the much tougher AL Eastern division. The Yankees also had no room for him in the rotation at the time of this trade and dealing from a position of depth is always a good idea.
There is a possibility that Jackson could improve offensively, making this deal slightly more dubious, but the Yankees weren’t willing to wait and develop him. They wanted the immediate gratification they got in Granderson and were already attempting to develop Brett Gardner which they successfully did. Two rookie outfielders would have just been too much for the Yankees.
So I wouldn’t say the Yankees were winners or losers in this deal. I would say that they got the best player in the trade and dealt from positions where they had depth. They gave up something to get something and were smart about it. Overall, it has worked out for them.