As CC Sabathia and the Yankees beat up on Justin Verlander and the Tigers Tuesday night, a very interesting battle occurred within the war. Austin Jackson, an outfielder who was developed in the Yankee system, hit a home run on the first pitch thrown by the Yankees ace, Sabathia.
The inning later, Curtis Granderson, who was traded for Jackson, made two sparkling catches. He later followed with a home run.
This series between the Yankees and Tigers presents us with one of the most compelling matchups possible in all of Major League Baseball. Regardless of the beautiful pitching matchup presented on Tuesday between both teams' aces, former teammates battled on all four corners of the diamond.
I already mentioned Granderson and Jackson, but many others are nearby. Former Yankees reliever Phil Coke also went to the Tigers in the Granderson trade, and Johnny Damon failed to re-sign with the Yankees, landing in Detroit.
Jackson has been the leader of that pack. In his rookie season, he has 133 hits, leading all Major League rookies. And as Yankee fans are quick to compare that to Granderson’s .248 batting average, they fail to look at the other side. What if, for any reason, this trade never happened?
The obvious answer would be that the Yankees would have another quality reliever in Phil Coke, and Jackson’s production would be far superior to that of Granderson. Seems simple if you look at it that way, but a trade of this caliber is never that simple.
As it would have been without Granderson, the Yankees would have had Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher as their outfielders. Would Jackson have filled the role of center fielder?
Probably not. If you recall, the Yankees were on the brink of signing Johnny Damon many times, and the talks only ended when Granderson became a Yankee. If you remove Granderson from the picture, the Yankees would have been much more aggressive in signing Damon.
The Yankees were never ready to bring Jackson into the Majors. They expected to get an outfielder in the offseason, and Granderson turned out to be the answer. If Granderson turned out not to be the answer, there were many other options over Jackson, the top option being Damon.
So the first consequence of the trade not happening is that Jackson would not have seen the Major Leagues. Right now, he would probably be ripping it up in Triple-A, and Damon would be starting in center field.
The deal for Damon would have likely been a one-year deal, so what would have happened when that ran out? With Granderson, the Yankees have him through 2012, so an outfielder will not be at the top of their shopping list this winter.
But if Damon was coming off the books, it would be a different story come Christmas. With Carl Crawford hitting the open market, he would have become the Yankees top priority.
Speaking of top priorities, what would have happened with the Yankees current top priority in Cliff Lee?
Lee would not have been on the radar for the Yankees if the Granderson deal never happened. Coke would have been in the Yankees bullpen, and his ERA of 2.52 would have made the bullpen beyond solid.
Having said that, recall when the Yankees were about to trade for Dan Haren. Joba Chamberlain was in the deal, and the Yankees were very close to giving him up. If Coke had been around to further solidify the bullpen, it would have been very easy for the Yankees to give up Joba for another top starting pitcher.
So Haren is now on the Yankees, Lee is no longer needed, and Chamberlain is on the Diamondbacks.
If Lee is no longer needed, what would the Yankees have focused on during the trade deadline? Well, Austin Kearns and Lance Berkman would certainly not be Yankees. But with Damon as a possible trade piece, the Yankees could have made some very high profile trades. What exactly would those trades have been? That we can’t answer.
So as Yankee fans criticize the trade for Granderson, and wonder what the Yankees would look like with Jackson in the lineup, consider all the consequences. Damon would be back, Haren would be a Yankee, and Chamberlain would not. Next season, Lee would not be a Yankee, and Crawford would. Kearns and Berkman would not be Yankees, and neither would Jackson. That’s a lot to worry about right there, so let’s just stick with Granderson.