There may be all winners and no losers in this three-way trade
Curtis Granderson gives the Yankees leverage in the Johnny Damon talks
The Tigers likely took a small step backward to save needed cash
The Diamondbacks significantly strengthened their rotation in a winnable division
INDIANAPOLIS -- One AL exec at this week's winter meetings called the three-team blockbuster that makes Curtis Granderson a Yankee, Edwin Jackson a Diamondback and four young players Tigers, "a great baseball trade.'' And while money was definitely a factor from the Tigers' perspective, what that exec meant was that all three teams received talent that could ultimately make them better.
The Diamondbacks were the initiator and driving force, yet a few executives did question them in particular, wondering about the wisdom of Arizona to add dollars without what the execs believed was a substantial upgrade or a vastly improved chance at a playoff spot. However, Arizona's reasoning looks sound from here: In an unpredictable division where the annually favored Dodgers are in severe budget lockdown, any improvement at all could make the young, underachieving D-backs a playoff threat.
Here's how each team benefits:
This is the easy one. The Yankees get a significant upgrade in center field, the position of traditional prestige for the sport's most storied franchise. Melky Cabrera collected several clutch hits in 2009, but in the end he isn't the star the Yankees are used to having in center. Granderson isn't Joe DiMaggio, but he is an All-Star.
Granderson is also far better than Cabrera, who never seemed to fit in the decades-long lineage. Cabrera rose to acceptable productivity last year and now could be used as trade bait, to the Cubs or another team that covets a center fielder, assuming the Yankees re-sign free agent Johnny Damon. The Yankees don't necessarily specialize in bargains, but Granderson is a bargain at $25.75 million over three years since he's probably at least a $60 million player as a free agent, and maybe even more than that.
The acquisition of Granderson gives the Yankees a chance to actually improve a lineup that was baseball's best last year, if Damon returns to man the No. 2 spot, as he did so perfectly last year. With Granderson lengthening it below, this could be an alltime great lineup. But for now, this trade also slightly lessens any pressure the Yankees may feel to secure Damon.
While Granderson's high strikeout total and inconsistency in hitting left-handers doesn't make the perfect top-of-the-lineup replacement for Damon for the Yankees, he does have prodigious overall offensive ability that replicates Damon and covers them a bit if Damon goes elsewhere. The Damon talks are starting slower than the Yankees had hoped, as Damon is seeking four years while the Yankees are acting like two years will be their limit. They could live with Cabrera sliding over to left field. But that can't be the ultimate goal here. With Damon in the fold as the left fielder, their offense would be downright scary.
Granderson is a major plus in the clubhouse, as he is known as one of the classiest, most personable young stars in the game. But even though he is seen as a great pickup, there are still two small questions about him. The first regards slightly uneven outfield play in the second half last year, when some suggested a slight loss in range and others detected evidence of some "yips'' in securing the baseball. The other comes from a WBC teammate who said that Granderson disappointed him by not showing the type of crazed competitiveness that drove the less-talented Shane Victorino to wrest the starting center field job from him and relegated Granderson to the WBC bench.
But these appear to be minor complaints regarding a trade in which the Yankees gave up three expendable players (there was a difference of opinion over how big a star Austin Jackson can become since his speed is only above average and he hasn't yet shown major power) for yet another established, productive star.
The team that has financial needs after running its payroll to about $140 million in a troubled city received decent young talent back while saving itself about $32 million (Granderson plus the $6 million that Edwin Jackson could make through salary arbitration).
Right-hander Max Scherzer is a dynamite pitching talent who throws just about as hard as Jackson and whom some believe can almost immediately replicate what Jackson can do, the left-hander Daniel Schlereth also has a big-time arm, and Austin Jackson is believed to have the talent to be a solid starter in center, at the minimum. Some scouts believe that Jackson is unlikely to surpass Granderson as a player, but if he starts to develop the power, he could be awfully close. Phil Coke is clearly the fourth piece, but he's a talented lefty for their 'pen.
If Scherzer rises to Edwin Jackson's level and Austin Jackson to Granderson's, the Tigers found a nifty way to save money while improving. More realistically, they took a small step backward to save needed cash.
Though they were the team that conceived this deal, they took the most lobby hits here. But the reality is that they weren't sure that Scherzer had a varied enough repertoire to rise to stardom as a starter. Edwin Jackson is a sure thing who has put together strong back-to-back seasons and gives them an excellent No. 3 starter behind Brandon Webb and Dan Haren in a winnable division.
Ian Kennedy was a disappointment to the Yankees and ultimately doesn't have the stuff to thrive in the AL East, but he showed in the recent Arizona Fall League that he still carries the potential to fill a rotation slot in the National League. Nobody sees the Arizona league more than the D-backs, and they obviously were impressed with Kennedy, who had 28 strikeouts and just five walks in 29 2/3 AFL innings, reaching the low 90s on the radar gun. While they took a few criticisms for adding perhaps $5 million without establishing themselves as a certain contender, teams generally do not go wrong trading relievers for starters. Bounceback years from their young talent could potentially lead to a title for the club that ranked as maybe baseball's third most underachieving team last year (behind the Mets and Cubs).
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