With all the trade rumors swirling around Curtis Granderson, I thought I would put together a Curtis Granderson trade primer to clear up some of the confusion about his value to the Tigers and any team that might acquire him.
I'll start with the Tigers financial situation. Contrary to many national rumors, the Tigers are not the Pirates of the American League drastically forced to slash payroll. Nobody knows their exact budget but keep in mind that they recently allowed Magglio Ordonez's $18 million contract to vest and then added Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff for the stretch drive. That doesn't sound like a team in dire financial straits. Next year, they'll be able to cut a lot of payroll with Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman, most likely Ordonez and others coming off the books. General Mananager Dave Dombrowski said this is not a fire sale and I believe him.
Many have written that Granderson is about to become very expensive. He's not. He'll be paid $5.5 million in 2010, $8.25 in 2011 and $10 million in 2012. That's a relative bargain given his likely production. His Salary should not be a huge issue for the Tigers. For teams trying to acquire him, his contract should be a plus.
Tigers fans may have overrated Grandy a bit in the past but now some seem to be going out of their way to underrate him. He was not awful last year. He had an OPS+ of 100 which is exactly average and that was a bad year for him. In the past four years, he has put up the following numbers:
So, he's average in a bad year and significantly above average in a good year. He does have major problems against left-handers. He has a career OPS of .614 against them but makes up for it with a tremendous .894 OPS versus right-handers. Is he a platoon player? Perhaps but would he be a better player if he batted .828 versus both LH and RH? .828 for a good center fielder makes him something more than a platoon player I think.
On the bases, Curtis has stolen 66 bases in 82 attempts in four years for an excellent 80% success rate. Some have said he should steal more but Jim Leyland does not give him the green light so it's hard to blame him for that. Besides, there is more to base running than stealing bases. Going from first to third on singles for example. Overall, he's been a good base runner according to the Baseball Prospectus Equivalent Base Running Runs (EqBRR) statistic:
2006 +1.8 runs above average
Now, on to his fielding. Taking the average of his +/- and UZR statistics, here is how he stacks up against other center fielders in terms of runs saved above average:
Other than the blip in 2008, he has done well at a demanding position where many teams focus on defense.
So, basically, he is above average at everything but not great any anything. Miguel Cabrera is currently the Tigers best position player but Granderson is their most complete player and, over the last four years, their most productive. He would be very hard to replace if they traded him.
Actually, I wasn't quite right. He is great at one thing. He's an outstanding person and was just named Man of the Year by his peers. He's a great ambassador for the Tigers and for MLB in general and I think that has some value to any team that might acquire him. He is humble and genuine enough to appeal to midwest fans and confident and savvy enough to handle New York.
Will he be traded? Since I don't think the Tigers are in deep financial trouble, it's going to take an awful lot to pry him away. If you think your favorite team will get him for second tier prospects in exchange for salary relief, you will will probably be disappointed. It will take a really good young player or two to make it happen. I think Dave Dombrowski is just exploring his market value. If some team, makes a great offer, he may pull the trigger but he does not have to make a deal. I believe the odds are against a trade happening.
By the way, if you want some insight into what happened to him offensively in 2009, check out this great article at Detroit Tigers Weblog.