The Grandyman Can’t: The Yankees should let Granderson walk next year

How many times has this happened to you?  You live in Tampa.  You can’t watch the Yankees on MLB.tv because, as the log-in error message states, you used a left-handed keyboard to enter your password on the holiest day on the Druid calendar.  So, you’re forced to listen to John Sterling’s broadcast on ESPN radio.  After Sterling mistakes about fifty in-field pop-flies for home runs, he finally calls a Granderson mash into the upper decks of right field correctly.

In the euphoric state that follows, your brain releases endorphins which cause you to momentarily forget what’s coming next.  You don’t turn off your Smartphone fast enough.  John Sterling starts singing his “Grandyman Can” song.  It enters your head.

“Oh, the Grandyman can!…”.

It’s too late!  You can’t un-hear it.  You quickly try to cleanse the impurity that has desecrated your auditory canals by pumping Metallica’s Disposable Heroes at high volume through your headphones. You even close your eyes and start violently nodding your head to and fro, but to no avail, you can’t get it out.  Your ear drums have been permanently profaned.

I don’t blame Curtis Granderson though.  I actually like him.  I liked the trade that brought him to New York.  I like his 95 home runs, 252 runs and 290 RBIs as a Yankee.  I loved his 2011 season when he hit 41 home runs, 119 RBIs and scored 136 times.  As my BBD colleague Chris Barca noted yesterday, he finished fourth in MVP voting and the Yankees will almost certainly pick up his 2013 option to the tune of $13 million for the year.  But I hope they don’t.  If you delete 2011 his offensive productivity is merely above average and his defense is truly offensive.  If 2011 hadn’t happened, this wouldn’t even be a discussion.  Betting on another 2011-like season is foolish at best, especially as he advances past the 31 year age-meridian-line.

The time has come to let him walk.  Or we can keep him and watch him strike out  a lot Again!

It’s not simply a matter of his projected cost.  The Yankees already have more than their fair share of social security-contracts.  A-Rod will be paid through his 42nd birthday, Derek Jeter through his 40th, and CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira through their 36th.  Should the Yankees re-sign Granderson, they likely will pay him Andre Ethier-type money, on the order of $16 or so million per year for four or five years through at least his 36th birthday.  That would double his current contract average of $8 million per year (which concludes with either a $13 million option or a $2 million buyout) during an age span where history and biology dictate that skills generally decline.

Lesser known amongst his statistics are ones which I’m sure his agent, Matt Brown, will probably try to either hide, ignore, or challenge the validity of, when broached during contract talks.  In Pinstripes, Granderson has amassed a -22.4 UZR and 423 strike outs.  This is simply another way of stating that Granderson can neither play defense nor make his opponents play any.  Or, alternatively, if you pasted his Fathead likeness to a piece of cardboard, then propped it up with a stick in centerfield, you’d get only slightly less defensive production.  This year, his 138 strike outs ranks him second in baseball (thank God for Adam Dunn!) and his .258 batting average is pulling the Yankee’s team average (.266) down.  Granderson currently ranks second in home runs tied with Josh Hamilton (30) behind, you guessed it, Adam Dunn (31).  Interestingly, Granderson and Dunn each have WARs well below their Colleagues-of-Swat.  Dunn’s is 1.6 and Granderson’s is holding steady at two.  Meanwhile, Hamilton’s is 4.1, Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo and Josh Willingham, all of whom are tied for fourth place with 29 home runs apiece, have WARs respectively of 5.5, 4.7, 3.6, 3.0 and 3.7.  In other words, Granderson is going to have to keep hitting 40+ home runs per year to offset his horrible defense and to justify being one player above replacement level.  The Yankees would have little choice but to play him in the field since A-Rod’s ridiculous contract all but locks him into the DH spot for the next five years.

Even if Granderson’s contractual expectations turn out to be more reasonable than predicted, he still doesn’t fit into what appears to be the direction of the new and improved New York Yankees.  The Steinbrenner Bros Austerity Plan (SBAP) aside, the Yankees have approximately $80 million tied up in only four players – Sabathia, Jeter, Teixeira, and A-Rod next year.  I doubt that the SBAP will actually become reality in 2014, but it will provide the cause célèbre for Cashman to seek out certain player prototypes and to justify player salary caps.  The Yankees, in other words, will be seeking both bats AND gloves from here on.  And while there is no bigger fan of the home run than yours truly, if I had to choose a single Most Valuable  Statistic (MVS), for me it’s Base-Out Percentage.  A player’s BOP indicates the ratio of his bases to outs.  To give a brief explanation, you shouldn’t be in the majors with a BOP of less than .5, unless you are a pitcher; .6 is above average and .8 is Barry Bonds.  Curtis Granderson, as of Wednesday night, posted a BOP of .67 which is above average.  While it has been all but determined by the commentariat that Granderson will be re-signed at the expense of Nick Swisher, it should be noted that Swisher’s BOP is approaching great at .75.  That’s the second-highest BOP on the Yankees, Robinson Cano’s .78 being the highest.  Furthermore, his UZR is at least approaching above-average at .6.  Add to that the fact that two of Swisher’s slash numbers are better than Granderson’s (.261/.345/.458 compared to .242/.337/.494) and that he is cheaper should translate into a deal.

Granderson doesn’t fit into the Yankees’ long term plans.  Hopefully, Cashman will make this as painless as possible and buyout Granderson’s remaining year rather than pick up his option.  We move Brett Gardner to centerfield, keep Swisher in right and maybe re-sign Ichiro Suzuki and/or Raul Ibanez to play left.  Gardner, you will recall, played centerfield, along with Melky Cabrera, in 2009.  His UZR/150 (a metric which predicts UZR across 150 games) is a RIDICULOUS 17.1.  Or we trade, or pick up a free agent, or pull up a prospect or two from Triple A.  Any of these options represents a guaranteed upgrade defensively and savings that might be used to buy something the Yankees really need – a young, ground-ball inducing pitcher.

And of course, there’s the added advantage that the“Grandyman” songs would stop.

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16 Responses to The Grandyman Can’t: The Yankees should let Granderson walk next year

  1. john says:

    Really like this article .. you summed it up perfectly .. the only problem I see is that I don't think swisher will come that cheap … And in all honestly he doesn't hit when it matters most the postseason … Ibanez will be 41 and we need more speed in the outfield to prevent all these bloop hits from dropping in .. so who from the minors you think is ready to come up to the majors and play the outfield?

  2. BullShark says:

    Uh, excuse me, he hit 41 HOME RUNS last year and he's on pace to do it again. You can't just let him walk!

  3. tom says:

    I don't trust Almonte and Mesa's eye discipline. If they bring similar result from minor to majors then both need 25 HR and 25 SB to be forgiven.

    I think rule 5 draft OF or make a trade to upgrade either CF or RF is only a way to go.

  4. Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

    "Hopefully, Cashman will make this as painless as possible and buyout Granderson’s remaining year rather than pick up his option. We move Brett Gardner to centerfield, keep Swisher in right and maybe re-sign Ichiro Suzuki and/or Raul Ibanez to play left. "

    Wow. First off, Swisher's line is not better. After reading this article, I have to wonder if you are a Red Sox fan.

    • Mark Panuthos says:

      Hardcore – if you reread what I wrote, I stated two of Swisher's numbers are better. Usually when someone begins a sentence with "first off", there follows a "second" and in extreme cases, a "third". Is that all you got?

      • Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

        First off, I read it rather quickly so my apologies for misstating the slash line. However, Granderson still has a larger OPS so the comment, while factually true on your part, is misleading at worst and pointless at best.

        Second, the main problem I have with your article is not that you are against resigning CG, which for me would depend on the numbers (both years and dollars), but the fact that you are talking about not picking up an OBVIOUS option in 2013 for a mere $11M difference. What other outfielder of his caliber is out there willing to take an $11M one year contract. Add to that the fact that the Yanks have no one ready in their farm system and picking up his option should be a no brainer.

        Third, you suggest filling one of the two OF holes with Swisher. Who knows what Swisher will cost, especially with Boras as his agent. Obviously he’s looking to get seriously paid. And with the significant increases in cables across the league, the market reality is that A LOT of teams are spending tons of money. And the contracts are running WELL past 36. I’m not saying I agree with that and I’m comfortable letting EVERYONE walk ESPECIALLY Cano, but that is the marketplace right now so your comments seem a bit unrealistic as it relates to what’s going on out there.

        Fourth, you suggest filling the other hold in the OF with Suzuki/Ibanez? Ichiro is DONE. He may have a spurt here but why in the world would you trade in about 200 OPS points? Sure Suzuki would be cheaper, but what the heck do the Yankees about that kind of a difference when the performance is so far below. As for Ibanez, his defense stinks and will only get worse. And who knows if his power will hold up as old he’s getting.

        Back to my second point, I wouldn't have as big a problem with your article if it didn’t call for not picking up the option for a measly $11M for a one year commitment.

        • Mark Panuthos says:

          Slugging percentage rewards good sequencing and gives one batter credit for the accomplishments of another. By itself, it is deeply flawed conceptually.

          OPS borders on asinine. A batter can get to .950 either by working a lot of walks or by hitting a lot of home runs. It tells you nothing about the particular skills of a given player and nothing that you can't glean from looking at the preceding slash numbers. Both slugging and OPS really are testaments to managers for crafting quality rosters.

          Picking up Granderson's option, because of .200 meaningless OPS points thus, is silly and merely kicks the can down the road on a long term Granderson decision and will have ramifications on contract talks with Cano and with Swisher. Meanwhile, the Yankees really, really,really need pitching.

          • Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

            How in the world does slugging percentage reward anything but the accomplishments of the batter? It has NOTHING to do with sequencing. It relies ENTIRELY on the ability of the batter. We’re not talking RBIs here.

            How does OPS border on asinine??? I can buy the argument that it doesn’t capture EVERYTHING but it does a good job of capturing the clear majority of a batter’s ability. And you can’t get to .950 by drawing a lot of walks or hitting a lot of homers. .950 is extremely high and implies that you are one of the best players in the game and overall doing a lot of things very well.

            .200 OPS points is no where near “meaningless”. If you think that the Yanks would perform the same regardless of Ichiro’s stats as oppose to Granderson, well than there’s just no having any sort of an intelligent debate with you.

            There is no need to sign a long term deal with Swisher. He is slightly older, slower and his defense sucks too. Because he’s not as athletic, it’s very arguable that he doesn’t age as well. And while he doesn’t strike out at the rate of Granderson, he strikes out a lot. So basically, he embodies everything you hate about Granderson, some worse and some better yet you seem to chomp at the bit to want to sign him. Makes no sense.

            As for Cano, you want to talk about signing people past their playing ability, signing Cano to a long term deal would be JUST THAT. History is LITTERED with top second baseman who go downhill for one reason or another right around 31-32 years old. Hornsby, Morgan, Biggio, Sandberg, Alomar, Utley, and on and on. There are TONS of outfielders who have performed well into their mid and somewhat late 30s.

            The best thing for the Yanks to do from a business and team perspective is to let Swisher walk and sign whatever he signs. Assuming that it’s not crazy money or years, you offer Granderson the same contract before opening day 2013 and you save a few million bucks on luxury tax for 2014.

            Your scenario is to let a valuable chip (Granderson) walk without anything in return and to sign someone who at best is his equal to a contract that would be much more damaging from a luxury tax standpoint. Seriously, I'm literally stunned at your position.

          • Mark Panuthos says:

            hardcore – my apologies – I was thinking RBIs (I had just looked up his RBIs prior to my previous post and had it on my mind) which you didn't write (and so it is irrelevant anyway). Please scratch my statement on slugging, I meant RBIs.

            I stand by my statement on OPS – .950 is high, but it is just an example and my point is that you have no idea, by itself, of the nature of a player's offense. It is at best redundant and at worst
            misleading. It doesn't capture the nature of a player's true ability – only the separate slash numbers of OBP and Slugging do that.

            From a team perspective, Granderson' s -15.9 UZR is a liability as are his strikeouts. If the Yankees can trade him, great. I don't think replacing him will be all that expensive – as you wrote, the MLB is stocked full with outfielders who can play well into their 30s.

          • Hardcore Yankee Fan says:

            Granderson's defense is only a liability if you have someone ready to play defense as well as him with the offense at what he can provide. Who is that person exactly? Or are you suggesting that the Yankees should just suffer through an anemic performance of Ichiro or one of their minor leaguers all in the name of saving a few bucks that they can easily spare? I just don't see ANY logic in that.

            As for OPS, I'm just not sure that you understand how it's calculated. First off, if you can put up .950, you are EASILY Hall of Fame caliber, first ballot at that. Jeter is a career .829 with awful defense, ableit he plays a tough defensive position. But back to OPS itself, it captures batting average twice (which CG sucks at and so gets punished), and the ability to take walks, and how many extra bases you hit. It already considers strikeouts in the form of the outs that have been made. Granted some of those strikeouts could have been outs that moved runners but that is a rather small number no matter how you slice it.

            Once again, the main problem is that the Yankees don’t have a ton of good or even decent outfielders locked up for 2013. Right now, Gardner is it. Now I’m a fan of his but he’s had one good year only and a completely injury ridden 2012. Who even knows what 2013 will bring. They have NO other everyday major league outfielders ready and locked up for 2013. And to that, you want to just not pick up the option of a speedy outfielder who can hit 40 HRs when he costs a measly $11 million and is only a one year commitment. Then you have the option of giving him a $13-14 million one year tender or get a draft choice for the following year. Why give all that up. Seriously, your position makes zero sense. I’m not trying to sound like a jerk. It’s just THAT obvious. THEY NEED TO PICK UP THE OPTION.

  5. Steven says:

    Pick up his option and trade him. We need to get younger and better. I'm sick of the home run argument considering most are solo shots and don't offset the fact he can't hit for average, get on base enough, hit the other way consistently, steal bases, and strikes out a ton.

  6. klaus says:

    Great article. But sign Ibanez for left field for next year? He'd need a cane!

  7. Rob 23 says:

    From left to right. GARDNER, HAMILTON, ICHIRO. IBANEZ DH.