Curtis Granderson, an All-Star center fielder acquired at the Indianapolis Winter Meetings, improves the Yankees’ 25-man roster immediately. Making him a top priority this offseason, however, was a mistake.
Two-time 20 game winner Roy Halladay is capable of swinging the balance of power in the AL by himself. Granderson, though a valuable player, is not.
A rotation of CC Sabathia, Halladay, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes would make the Yankees an indestructible force. With Halladay still available, the door is open for the Red Sox and Angels to close the gap on the champs.
While Granderson is a nice addition, he came at a price of two upper echelon prospects in Triple-A—starting pitcher Ian Kennedy and outfielder Austin Jackson. Those blue chippers could have been used in a package to land ace and division foe Halladay.
Now, if the Yankees wish to pursue Halladay, it will almost assuredly cost catcher Jesus Montero, the undisputed best prospect in their system, as a starting point. The aftermath of sacrificing Montero would leave the Yankees nearly barren of Double-A and Triple-A talent and limit trade maneuverability for several years.
Not to mention that the 20-year-old Montero hit .337 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs in an injury shortened 347 at bats last season in the minors. Montero will start the season in Triple-A and if he continues to hit at that rigorous pace, will be ready for the Big Show by the All-Star Break. He’s a rare find that GM Brian Cashman would be foolish to part with.
To be fair, Montero’s defensive abilities have been questioned by scouts and many envision him as a first baseman down the road. Mark Teixeira presents a road block there so the Yankees will continue to monitor his defensive development at catcher where he could be an offensive standout at the position.
With the future discussed, let’s move on to Granderson, the man that Cashman has made part of the present.
Granderson hit .249 with 30 homers and 71 RBIs last season for the Tigers. His .327 OBP was the lowest of his career as a full-time player. More troubling, perhaps, is his .183 average against left-handed pitching.
His paralysis against lefties is more a trend than an aberration as he’s hit just .202 against southpaws over the past three seasons. The Yankees routinely pounded lefties in 2009.
In Granderson’s defense, Comerica Park is a spacious pitcher’s park which likely transformed some of his homers into doubles and triples. The fabled right field short porch in Yankee Stadium should treat him more altruistically. Johnny Damon found the new stadium charitable last season as he hit a career high 24 homers, a fact that undoubtedly entered into Cashman’s mind as he pulled the trigger on the deal.
The Yankees would love to see Granderson duplicate his earth shattering 2007 season when he hit .302 with 23 homers and 74 RBI and tallied an astounding 84 extra-base hits. As a complementary player in New York surrounded by stars, he won’t need to produce robust numbers, but he’s proven that he has the potential to do so.
With Granderson secured at a reasonable salary for $25.75 million over three seasons, the Yankees have flexibility while they decide whether to retain Damon and World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. As it stands, the Yankees have leverage and can play Matsui against Damon in negotiations. They no longer need someone to play left field since they will shift Nick Swisher or Melky Cabrera there.
The designated hitter spot is the void in the lineup. Matsui, as a result, is more of a fit than originally perceived.