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Rethinking Curtis Granderson

Update by jscape:  Looks like it's happening.  I don't like it from the look of things, but I'm reserving judgment until I see all the names and dollars involved.

As I'm sure you've heard, the Yankees discussed a 3-team deal with the Tigers and Diamondbacks that would have sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, Austin Jackson to the Tigers, and Ian Kennedy to the D-Backs (plus others).  The discussions had gotten to the point where the teams began naming the prospects and secondary players who were to be included, but it now appears that the deal, at least as it was proposed yesterday, is on hold. 

My initial reaction was the Yankees shouldn't trade Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson.  But the more I think about it, I'm not so sure.

I've always liked Ian Kennedy, and always hoped that he'd find success in the majors.  But the Yankees have other young, major-league ready starting pitchers, and Kennedy's coming off of two consecutive lost seasons - one to injury, one to poor performance - so I'm not sure that anybody would rank him much higher than seventh or eight on their rotational depth chart right now.  Cashman shouldn't be looking to give him away, but I wouldn't be heartbroken to see him included in a trade that brings back a useful player. My feelings for Phil Coke are similar.  He's a useful lefty reliever who's competent enough against opposite-handed hitters, but he's also a flyball pitcher who gave up a home run every six innings last year.  The re-emerge of Damaso Marte made him expendable, although he was unlikely to ever see many high-leverage innings anyway. 

Austin Jackson is obviously the key to this trade.  As a 22-year old in AAA last year, he hit .300/.354/.405 .  Scouts are mixed on how he projects as a major league player - he strikes out a lot (22% of plate apperances last year) for somebody who doesn't really hit for power or get on-base at an exceptional rate.  Jackson could certainly develop into a useful major league player, but I'm not sure how high his ceiling really is.  

And so the problem, depending on your point of view, is that Jackson plays the same position as Curtis Granderson.  We can talk about how Ajax might project in 2010 or 2011 after some more seasoning in the minors, but Granderson has already established himself as an above-average major league centerfielder. He hits for power (.212 career Isolated Slugging), walks often enough (unintentional BBs in 9% of career plate apperances) and is good defensively (32 FRAA and 21.2 UZR for his career).  Granderson is coming off of a season in which is BABIP was 46 points lower than his career average, and while he's never hit lefties well, his 2009 performance against them (.484 OPS) was aberrently low relative to his career .614 OPS versus southpaws, and possibly affected by the BABIP issues.

Granderson's true value is probably somewhere between his 2009 performance (2.7 WARP) and his career year in 2007 (7.0 WARP).  Assuming he reverts to his career numbers on BABIP and against lefties, we're looking at a 4 win player who's under 30 and signed to a favorable contract ($36.8 million for 2010-2013, including the team option) in terms of dollars and length, a player with a track record that Austin Jackson will be hard-pressed to match and unlikely to ever exceed. 

Somebody said no to this trade, but I doubt it was Brian Cashman.