Curtis Granderson is annoying. As a man, he seems like one of the nicest, most well spoken guys in the league. But as a baseball player, he’s more frustrating than a blown save or stranding runners in scoring position with less than two outs.
For the last season and a half, Granderson has become an “all or nothing” player at the plate. This has prompted many fans and beat writers alike to openly discuss whether the Yankees should let Granderson walk once he hits free agency after the 2013 season in order to get under that arbitrary $189 million 2014 budget set by the front office. (His option for 2013 will certainly be picked up). I understand the reasons for possibly letting Grandy go after 2013 and at times I even consider joining the “let him walk” camp, but I feel like, barring catastrophic injury or remarkable regression next season, the Yankees should explore resigning Granderson long term, as long as the price isn’t astronomical.
Before we get into the on-field product, let’s look at the most important factor in deciding Granderson’s fate, money. If Curtis Granderson asks for a lengthy contract at over $20-22 million a season, he’s out of his mind and I won’t lose a minute’s sleep over him skipping town. We’ve seen teams recently overspend for solid (not superstar) outfielders, only for it to backfire in their face, with Jayson Werth’s 7 year, $126 million dollar deal as a prime example. But there are plenty of comparable outfielders who have recently signed semi-respectable and realistic deals, like Hunter Pence, Corey Hart and even Ryan Braun. Braun, steroid scandal aside, is a legitimate superstar who is better than Granderson in every facet of the game with the bat, and his recently signed five year extension has him making an average of $20 million a season. With the market for sub-superstar outfielders not being as pricey as it is for corner infielders or pitchers, it’s realistic to think that Granderson can be had for something in the neighborhood of five years, $80-85 million, similar to that of Andre Ethier (six years, $95 million). That possible deal would take Granderson through his age-37 season. Not young, but not terribly ancient either. The question then becomes whether or not the Yankees can afford both Granderson and Robinson Cano.
If Granderson signs this hypothetical $16 million per year deal, the Yankees will have $94.5 million tied up in just five players (Grandy, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia). If the Yankees can sign Cano to something around $20 million per year, that leaves around $85 million to spend on the other 19 men on the roster. An extremely difficult task that will hopefully be made easier by having Michael Pineda under cheap team control as well as possibly having a few young prospects like David Phelps, Corban Joseph, or maybe even Mason Williams playing for cheap as well. But there are so many determining factors that have to fall into place before 2014, that it’s almost impossible to speculate.
Now, back to Granderson.
When Curtis Granderson is locked in, there are few players in baseball better than him. He quite literally owns the second deck in right field and hammers righties and lefties alike. Over his two and a half seasons with the Yankees, he owns a .252/.344/.510/.854 slash line, more than acceptable for a two hitter who bats behind one of the greatest top of the order hitters of our generation, Derek Jeter, and ahead of arguably the best pure hitter in baseball, Robinson Cano. Hence, the amount of runs he can drive in and score are plentiful, and Granderson has delivered. He led the American League in both runs batted in (119) and runs scored (136) in 2011, a rare feat indeed. He also tripled ten times and swiped 25 bases, good for a fourth place finish in MVP voting. Granderson has slightly regressed from last year’s amazing year, but he’s still second in the majors in home runs (30), seventh in plate appearances (489), and fourth in runs scored (78). But arguably his best statistic is his durability, as he’s played in every single game this season except one, and he missed just six last year. Granderson trotting out to centerfield to begin each ballgame is basically set in stone, and that’s something that’s hard to find either in the minor leagues or the free agent market. I know sabermetricians and UZR supporters will probably stone me to death for saying this, but Granderson also possesses a solid glove with impressive speed and range in centerfield, and when paired with his bat, he’s someone that would be very hard to replace. When it comes to 2014 free agency, Jacoby Ellsbury is the only true centerfielder who could be considered on the same level as Curtis Granderson, but if he replicates his MVP type season in 2013, he will absolutely be too expensive for the Yankees if they stay true to their alleged budget. Corey Hart, Hunter Pence, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Morse are corner outfielders that will be available and while the Yankees could hypothetically move Brett Gardner (if he’s still on the team) to centerfield, Granderson would seem to be the most logical solution.
While Granderson may not be grand in terms superstardom, he certainly is a run creating machine right in the middle of a very potent lineup. It remains to be seen how Granderson will perform for the remainder of the season and his following contract year, but if they’re anything like his past year and a half with the Bombers, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to exploring a contract in order to keep him here long term.
Stay tuned for Mark Panuthos’ rebuttal this weekend.