For the first part of the offseason the Pinstriped Bible staff will be grading 35 of the Yankees' main contributors to the 2013 roster. Their entire season will be taken into account, even if part of it came at the minor league level. We continue this series with Curtis Granderson.
2013 Statistics: 61 games, .220/.317/.407, 97 wRC+, .319 wOBA, 7 HR, 1.4 fWAR
2014 Contract Status: Free Agent
The Yankees were counting on Curtis Granderson this year. Coming off a near-MVP season in 2011 where he posted 6.7 fWAR and a 146 wRC+, the outfielder was productive again in 2012, notching his second straight 40+ home run season and a respectable .811 OPS. Sure, he fell into a lengthy slump in the second half, matched his teammates’ utter futility in the playoffs and suffered a career-high 28.6% K-rate, but still it was hard to imagine that Grandy’s Yankee Stadium-approved home run swing wouldn’t remain an invaluable piece in a starting lineup puzzle that was missing 62 round-trippers from the departures of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez.
Then 2013 happened.
In Spring Training, Granderson was hit by a pitch and broke his right forearm, costing him the first six weeks of the season. He returned on May 14 played in eight games over eleven days and was promptly beaned again by Tampa Bay pitcher Cesar Ramos. This time it was the fifth metacarpal in his left hand that snapped, and he wouldn’t see action again until August 2.
Granderson’s barely-passing grade for this season isn’t based entirely on him being unavailable for 99 of the Yankees’ first 108 games. The fact is that when he did finally play he wasn’t very good. The uncharacteristically paltry stats you see above speak for themselves. Beyond those figures, Granderson struck out nearly as often as he did in 2012 – in 28.2% of his at bats – his ISO was .178, matching his worst mark ever and his .724 OPS was easily a career low. Not only did he not hit in 2013 – he didn’t hit for power, and that’s been by far his most useful skill as a Yankee.
Why not an "F"? There were positives for Granderson this season, though few and far-between. Even entering a contract year he had no complaints about being shifted over to left field in spring training in favor of a superior defensive player in Brett Gardner. He had to know that the move would hurt him on the open market but the 32-year-old accepted that his dwindling range had hurt the team. He went on to play more than passable defense, splitting time between left and right in May and August and returning to center in September after Gardner’s season-ending injury. His 25.5 UZR/150, small sample aside, was a career high.
Granderson also continued to overcome his once notorious vulnerability to lefties. His 119 wRC+ and his .351 wOBA vs. southpaws easily dwarfed his lifetime 86/.309 norms, building on 2011 and 2012 splits that had also surpassed his career averages.
Five days after the World Series ends, the Yankees must decide whether or not to extend Granderson a qualifying offer of roughly $14 million. Chances are they will, to ensure draft pick compensation if he leaves, and because if he accepts, having him back on a one-year deal wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Grandy, who "absolutely" wants to stay a Yankee, according to his agent, Matt Brown, may consider the QO, hoping to rebuild his value with a strong and healthy 2014. More likely, though, he’ll test the market, betting teams will remember that he led the majors in home runs from 2011 through 2012 and that he can be slotted in at all three outfield positions. Even coming off a down year, Granderson can probably expect a three or four year offer at an average annual value close to what the QO would pay, or more.
The Yankees will miss the Curtis Granderson of 2011 and early 2012, but it’s been some time since they’ve actually seen that player. Grandy will turn 33 next August, and like Swisher a year ago, it makes more sense to lose him now than to overpay long-term. The qualifying offer should be made, with the hope that he accepts – but if he chooses the free agent path, his tenure in pinstripes should be over.