The Yankees hope Granderson can do more than just field, steal bases, and hit homers in New York.
The New York Yankees won the World Series this past season with the best offense in baseball. They hit .283 as a team, socked 244 home runs, and had an incredible .362 on-base percentage. Seven of their regulars hit 20 or more home runs. Derek Jeter, their captain who was in the MVP conversation, missed out with 18 long balls. Their center fielder, Melky Cabrera had the least amount of homers of anyone with more than 110 games played, hitting only 13. The Yankees, needing power from every position, engaged in trade talks with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks with hopes of acquiring a big bat.
The three teams haggled over which players would be included, but came to terms. The Yankees agreed to send young starting pitcher Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks, and prized center field prospect Austin Jackson and durable reliever Phil Coke to the Tigers. In the seven-player deal , whom did they get in return? Detroit’s four-tool outfielder Curtis Granderson .
Granderson, 28, has speed, power, plays excellent defense, and is a smart baserunner. That’s four of the five tools that make up a “five-tool player.” The fifth is batting average. But hitting for average isn’t his strong suit; at least it wasn’t this past season. In 2007, he batted .302 with 23 homers, 23 triples, 38 doubles, 185 hits, 26 steals (in 27 attempts), and had a .361 on-base percentage in 158 games. This past season, he played in three more games, but his batting average dropped an astounding 53 points to a horrid .249, and his strikeout total increased to 141. His on-base percentage that was once just respectable, dipped to a dreadful .327. Not surprisingly, while his average and on-base percentage decreased, his home run total shot up to 30.
The Yankees presumably love the home run increase, but they certainly hope the 2007 version dons pinstripes, given they gave up Jackson. My cousin Matt, who lives in New York and follows the Yankees, informs me that if the team was going to make a trade this offseason, the majority of the fanbase wished Jackson not to be included. I can see why, and why “What? Jackson? No!” spread throughout the forums at the sight of an “Austin Jackson to Tigers” headline.
The 22-year-old, well-built center was the Yankees top overall prospect entering this past season. He backed up this title with a year in triple-A similar to Granderson’s 2007, except without the power. But in the minors, stats don’t necessarily matter. He had a few rough patches average-wise throughout the lower levels, and, when taking into account his 500-plus at-bats per season, he hasn’t scored very many runs. Yet, he was their top prospect for a reason; he had the ability to be their center fielder of the future.
But now Granderson is their center fielder of the present and future. The player who hit an unsightly .184 against left-handed pitchers last season, and whose lucrative contract runs through 2013. He’ll steal bases, hit for power, and cover a lot of ground in the outfield; there is no doubt about that. But the Yankees would certainly love it if the 2009 version of Granderson doesn’t board the plane to New York.
They traded for the 26-year-old Granderson, who led the Tigers to the World Series with a spectacular season. Given his decline, and the pressure that comes with being a Yankee, the odds are good that he won’t show up.