As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman puts together a plan for the upcoming offseason, replacing Curtis Granderson with Carlos Beltran should be a starting point to improve a Yankees offense that was uncharacteristically below-average in 2013.
Due to a swell of injuries to everyday players and losses of key contributors from the 2012 team, New York ranked just 26th in baseball in team OPS (.683) and posted their lowest season run total (650) since 1990.
Clearly, reinforcements are needed to boost the team closer to postseason contention in 2014. As the decision-makers in New York's front office put a plan into action, Beltran's name and bat should be part of it in lieu of retaining Curtis Granderson.
Although Granderson is the younger player (32 compared to 36), he's not more productive. When assessing the last four seasons for each player (coinciding with Granderson's arrival in New York and overlapping Beltran's departure from the crosstown Mets), a clear picture comes into focus: Beltran is a better offensive performer when taking into account his ability to get on base and adjusting power numbers based on park effects.
The following chart places Beltran and Granderson side-by-side since 2010. As you can tell by the numbers, Granderson's only true advantage lies in the home run column. Yet, with the short right-field porch in Yankee Stadium, his numbers were inflated in New York. Giving the switch-hitting Beltran 81 games to shoot for that same mark would likely level out Granderson's lone advantage.
Beltran is the better pure hitter and reaches base far more often. Despite Granderson's 30 home run advantage, both OPS+ and wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) favor Beltran. Those numbers, to put it simply, measure the impact of each hitter by factoring in league and park effects. During some of the time in question, Beltran played home games at Citi Field in New York and AT&T Park in San Francisco, both known to be difficult on hitters. Meanwhile, Granderson was playing in Yankee Stadium.
Despite a raw OPS of just 19 points better (.849-.830), Beltran's OPS+ was 13-percent greater (133-120) than Granderson's. Similarly, Beltran's wRC+, measuring how many runs a player creates (with 100 being an average offensive performer) was quite higher (133-122) for the current St. Louis Cardinals star.
Outside of the numbers, two variables of Beltran's and Granderson's respective careers stand out when making a determination of which player would be better for New York in 2014 and beyond: position and versatility.
If Granderson was still considered a center fielder by the Yankees, something Beltran hasn't been for years, he would clearly rate higher on any priority list. Center fielders with 30-plus home run power are very, very hard to find. In fact, over the last decade only 16 center fielders have posted a 30-plus home run season.
The only two to do it more than twice: Curtis Granderson and Carlos Beltran.
Heading into 2014, both players must be evaluated as corner outfielders, not elite power-hitting center fielders.
Outside of leveling the playing field on defense, Beltran's ability to switch-hit makes him a much, much more attractive fit for the New York offense. Of the many problems for the 2013 New York Yankees, there was a noticeable lack of matchup nightmares throughout their lineup.
Since the mid-'90s, the Yankees lineup has notoriously been difficult to pitch against due to hitters' patience and the Yankees' ability to employ switch-hitters to cause puzzles for late-game bullpen management. From Bernie Williams to Jorge Posada to Chili Davis to Tim Raines, the Yankees' starting lineup and bench seemed to always be littered with hitters with the ability to leave opposing managers in a bind.
As late as 2009, during New York's last World Series season, that strategy was still very much a part of their arsenal. Between Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada, Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher, switch-hitters made 2,292 plate appearances for the 2009 Yankees. In 2013, that number wilted to 176. The switch-hitter who led New York in plate appearances this season: Zoilo Almonte.
For his career, Beltran is a .289/.355/.523 hitter against right-handed pitching. Meanwhile, Granderson, has hit .226/.295/.409 in lefty vs. lefty duels. Simply swapping Beltran for Granderson when the opposition starts a left-handed pitcher would be the equivalent of replacing David Wright (.888 career OPS) with Juan Pierre (.704 career OPS). The difference is stark.
The end result between Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson, when looking at only some numbers, isn't huge, but when factoring in park effects, current position status and versatility, a clear picture forms: Beltran's arrival in New York would enhance the Yankees' offense more than Granderson.
Additionally, the specter of Beltran's postseason greatness can be added to the equation, but New York first needs to focus on getting back to October before worrying about how their players will perform there.
There's little doubt, unless you're talking to a Mets fan holding a 2006 NLCS grudge, about Beltran's ability to perform on the big stage. But it's his ability to help the Yankees' offense get there that makes him a better fit than Granderson.
Time will tell if the Yankees pursue Beltran, let Granderson walk or offer their current player the $14.1 million qualifying offer (with the ability to trade him on that one-year deal).
The objective of any offseason is to enhance the product on the field for the upcoming campaign. Swapping Carlos Beltran for Curtis Granderson would do just that for the New York Yankees.
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