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A fond look back on Curtis Granderson’s elite run in pinstripes

Granderson was one of the Yankees’ best outfielders of the 2010s.

Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees Set Number: X84001 TK3 R1 F583

Curtis Granderson is one of my favorite Yankees of the last 10 years or so. After the great success of the championship 2009 campaign, my fandom and love of the game was hitting an all-time high. While the team was good enough to run it back with the same personnel, the Yankees played it aggressive by acquiring one of the best outfielders in the game. At a very early stage in Granderson’s career, he put together 4.0, 7.9, and 4.1 fWAR seasons in Detroit between 2006 and 2008. As an athletic left-handed bat with good pull-side power, he was a perfect fit for the Yankees.

The soon-to-be-dubbed “Grandy Man” immediately hit the ground running upon his arrival to the Bronx, delivering over 20 homers, above average defense, and most importantly, immaculate vibes. He even discovered the best version of himself during his tenure. He changed up his approach a bit by adding a bit more strikeouts to his game as each season went on along with some power. The different stadium certainly played into this, as he went from a massive park in Comerica to one that caters towards his type of pull-side power.

These factors made the approach change obvious for Granderson.

The adjustment plus the new park paid off in the form of back-to-back 40 homer seasons in 2011 and 2012. He had the highest MVP finish of his career during the Yankees’ run to the AL East crown in 2011, too, as a 6.9 fWAR campaign netted him a fourth-place finish. This production made it undeniable that Granderson was one of the best power bats in the game, and that’s not an understatement.

The veteran’s defense certainly took a hit as he lost some speed and athleticism, but the power made up for it big time. Granderson led a team which included Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Canó, and Mark Teixeira in home runs. It probably isn’t what the team expected when they acquired Granderson, but it worked out regardless.

In retrospect, the trade was a magnificent move. The Yankees traded top prospect Austin Jackson, who did not live up to the expectations after a quick start, a near-replacement-level reliever in Phil Coke, and Ian Kennedy. To his credit, Kennedy probably ended up having the most successful career of the three players. Still active today, the right-hander has had sustained success as both a reliever and starter. However, what Granderson brought to the club outweighs the cost of acquiring him.

According to fWAR, the Yankees had themselves a top-10 player in baseball in 2011. When they weren’t getting much out of Alex Rodriguez in 2011 and 2012, they had Granderson to supplement the lineup with some much needed pop. I’ll tip my cap to Brian Cashman on this one. Of the many wins he’s chalked up on the trade market in the last 15 years, this is one of the biggest.

Since the Yankees first season without Bernie Williams, they have had a little bit of a carousel in center field. However, Curtis Granderson undeniably had the best run of any center fielder in that same time frame. Longtime Yankee Brett Gardner has accumulated the most WAR (albeit while spending more time in left), but Granderson’s elite three-year run is unmatched by Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Melky Cabrera.

It was tough to watch Granderson move across town to Queens. He had a good run there too, but he wasn’t the slugger we saw in the Bronx. I’m grateful for the time he spent in pinstripes. He’s proven himself to be a great person off the field and wasn’t too shabby on it. Granderson will probably be in and around the game for a long time; maybe we’ll even see a return to the Bronx at some point in time.