Ain’t lovin’ Granderson?

This is my first post here at THT after spending a year and a half blogging for my favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s good to be on board.

With the end of the World Series, every baseball fan’s second favorite pastime is rumor-mongering about who’s heading where and for how much or whom. As is always the case, I’ve been suckered into it as well. While there has been a lot of talk about the top free agents on the market, the rumor that has really drawn my attention is the one that suggests that the Tigers are looking to trade Curtis Granderson. On the surface, it appears as though this is not an altogether terrible idea. He batted just .249 last season and struck out 141 times. He also struggles to hit lefties, mustering a feckless .484 OPS last year against southpaws.

Digging a little deeper, however, one has to wonder exactly what the Tigers hope to gain by trading their starting center fielder when he’s signed for the next three seasons and stands to receive just $5.5 million in 2010. Starting center fielders don’t grow on trees, after all and Granderson, despite all the strikeouts and the low batting average, still managed a .340 wOBA in 2009.


**The Tigers would be making a huge mistake by selling low on Curtis Granderson** (Icon/SMI)

His batting average was at least partly a consequence of a BABIP that was a full 47 points lower than his career average. Granted, that’s partly due to the fact that his fly ball rate (49.3 percent) was the highest of his career and 13 percent of those were infield fly balls. When one hits a lot of pop-ups and fly balls, we would expect his batting average to slide some. Still, David Golebiewski over at Fangraphs used Derek Carty’s handy XBABIP tool to determine that Granderson’s BABIP should have been .303. If this had been true, Granderson’s wOBA would have been .369 rather than (the still above average) .340.

Even so, in his worst offensive season since 2006, with a .484 OPS against lefties, Granderson still managed to be six runs above average at the plate in 2009. As for his defense, UZR has him as a slightly above average center fielder in 2009 with 1.6 runs above average. His three year UZR puts him at 6.9 runs above the average center fielder. If you’re not a fan of UZR, Tango’s Fans’ Scouting Report has Granderson as an above average fielder as well.

The bottom line is that the Tigers have an above average hitting, above average fielding center fielder who is under contract for 3 more seasons and will earn about what Kaz Matsui will earn next year. If they’re planning on selling low on Granderson simply because he hit .249 and struck out more than 140 times last season, they’re making a huge mistake. Granderson’s been worth at least 3.4 wins and $14.3 million per season each of the last 4 seasons and will be only 29 when the major league season begins next April. Moreover, there’s every reason to believe that he’s actually an even better player than he was in 2009. Does he have his flaws? Of course but, as I said earlier, above average center fielders don’t grow on trees.

If the Tigers do plan on trading Granderson, they had better be prepared to ask for a bunch in return. You don’t sell low on players as talented, and as inexpensive, as Granderson. He has provided millions in excess value to the Tigers each year for the last four and should do the same for at least the next couple of years as well. It’s probably in the Tigers’ interest to hang on to Granderson at least one more year and then try to sell high as his salary, and wins, escalate.

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  1. kilroy1234 said...

    I believe many in the media have misrepresented statements made by the Tigers about Granderson. The Tigers aren’t looking to get rid of him, he is one of the only players they can trade to get quality players in return.

    In addition to the improvements every team looks for, they need to re-sign/replace their SS & at least 2 RP including their closer. Unfortunately, the Tigers have a very high payroll, for a ‘mid market’ team, in 2010 so they cannot dive into the free agent market, they will need to trade. They can’t really trade prospects because they have depleted the farm system with trades in the 2006 & 2007 off seasons (Sheffield, Renteria, Cabrera/Willis, etc). They also have a number of large contracts with either aging players (Guillen, Ordonez) or injured players (Bonderman, Robertson, Willis) so they can’t trade their extra DH or SP to fill their needs. Lastly, they need to add mature talent to the farm system to prepare for 2011 (when they lose many big contracts & veterans) so a 1-1 trade won’t really help.

    That leaves them with trading high quality, attractive players like Granderson & Edwin Jackson. To get quality you have to give quality and these 2 are the only veterans that can bring in multiple quality players (Verlander would cost so much talent he is essentially untouchable). Although his BA was low in 2009 & he didn’t hit lefties, he did hit a career high 30 HR so Granderson will likely cost 3 top young players with his talent and competitive contract. An alternative would be 1-2 top young players, 1-2 mid-level prospects for Granderson, 1 of the Tiger’s big contracts (Guillen, Robertson, or Willis), and a mid-level prospect. I think the Jackson comes cheaper because the Tigers are trying to ‘sell high’ after his outstanding 2009 season.

    Granderson is one of the only players (and contracts) that the Tiger’s have that another team would be willing to ‘purchase’ with a trade for quality players. I’m sure most of the teams in MLB that are looking for an OF would love to have him. I am much more interested to read about what they would be willing to give up in return. This is not a salary dump so he certainly won’t come cheap.

  2. erik said...

    Nice to see you here blogging, Chuck!

    I think I read somewhere that the Granderson on the trade block was all just rumor, thankfully. Detroit would be making a huge mistake trading him.

    Baseball aside, “Grandy” is a really nice guy and does a lot of good in the Detroit area. Trading him would just be wrong on all sorts of different levels.

  3. Chuck Brownson said...

    I realize that any trade involving Granderson wouldn’t be a salary dump on the Tigers’ part.  They simply have too many nearly untradeable pieces because of the contracts they’ve doled out to people like Ordonez and Guillen.  I still think it’s a mistake for the Tigers to trade him now, when his value is perceived to be relatively low because of a relatively poor season. 

    If they do trade him, I hope for the Tigers’ sake that they’re able to receive his true value in return.  That is, he should be valued as a 4 win player and, if I were Dave Dombrowski, I’d have to be blown away to trade him.  He’s simply worth too much to the time to get sufficient value in return.  That may not be true next year if he can put up a 4 win season and with his salary due to escalate.  But right now, I don’t think the Tigers can truly receive what he’s worth.

  4. Mike Rogers said...

    Depends. I think calling it a “huge mistake” would be jumping the gun. He’s clearly a valuable asset and probably the 2nd least likely Tiger to get dealt (behind Miguel Cabrera because his contract is so large, few teams could afford to make a deal for him), but everyone around the league understand how valuable he is, so a package for Granderson would be including some high-end talent in the form or prospects or even a MLB-ready player.

    If the Tigers are looking to rebuild (which has to happen at some point given the lack of talent in the minors and the age of the everyday lineup), then moving Granderson does make SOME sense, but is still unlikely.

  5. Nick Steiner said...

    Good post Chuck, didn’t realize you started here already. 

    The funny things is the Cubs fans at BCB don’t even want Granderson!  They think Josh Vitters is too much to give up.

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