Yanks, Tigers prevail in 3-team Granderson deal

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Thumbnail image for granderson tigers.jpgThe incredible thing is that the Diamondbacks were supposed to be the driving force behind the whole thing.
Maybe GM Josh Byrnes was simply so eager to get the deal done that he lost his way, but it looks like the Diamondbacks are really losing out in the three-team deal sending Curtis Granderson to New York, Max Scherzer to Detroit and Edwin Jackson to Arizona.
The full deal (ages as of Opening Day, 2010):
New York gets
Granderson (29) – from Detroit
Detroit gets
Scherzer (25) – from Arizona
Austin Jackson (23) – from New York
Daniel Schlereth (23) – from Arizona
Phil Coke (27) – from New York
Arizona gets
Edwin Jackson (26) – from Detroit
Ian Kennedy (25) – from New York
One can make a case for Scherzer as the most valuable player in the deal. The 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft went 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA in his first full major league season. Now that sounds pretty unremarkable, but along the way, he fanned 174 in 170 1/3 innings. Scherzer’s 92-96 mph fastball and slider are both strikeout pitches. His changeup lags behind, but he could turn into a legitimate top-30 starter.
The concern with Scherzer is durability. He’s had some shoulder problems, and the Diamondbacks must not be sold on him developing into a reliable 200-inning-per-year guy. That’s the only reason it makes any sense to trade him for Edwin Jackson.
Not that Jackson is chopped liver. He was one of the AL’s best pitchers for five months last season before tumbling in September and finishing 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA. But Jackson is just two years away from free agency and is going to make at least $5 million next season. If he turns in another strong campaign, he’ll be due $8 million-$10 million in 2011. Scherzer is five years away from free agency. If Jackson is the slightly better bet on the mound for the next two years, the difference in salaries more than makes up for it.
The secondary pieces in the deal don’t even it up for the Diamondbacks. Schlereth was their top pick in the 2008 draft. The left-hander is purely a reliever and he has command issues, but he’s also a strikeout machine with his 92-95 mph fastball and hard curve. He could battle it out with Ryan Perry to be the Tigers’ long-term closer (pending a still possible Joel Zumaya comeback).
Kennedy was viewed as a legitimate No. 3 starter two years ago, but he faltered badly for the Yankees in 2008 and he missed most of last season following surgery for an aneurysm under his armpit. His fastball is below average, but he does have a four-pitch arsenal that could make him a decent enough National League pitcher. Ideally, he’s a cheap No. 4 now. He is worth gambling on, yet I’d still rather have Schlereth going forward.
So, the Diamondbacks lose. And I think it’s a big enough loss to make the deal a win for the other two teams.
Granderson’s defense has slipped a bit and it looks like he’ll always be a liability against lefties, but he still brings quite a bit to the table and he should put up some big numbers in center field for the Yankees. His contract is also manageable, as he’s due $5.5 million next year, $8.25 million in 2011, $10 million in 2012 and then $13 million or a $2 million buyout in 2013.
Perhaps the Yankees should have just signed Mike Cameron instead, but the price for Granderson was right. Austin Jackson was the only piece they gave up likely to play a big role going forward.
Austin Jackson becomes the Tigers’ center fielder of the future, if not the present. He got off to a big start in Triple-A last season, but he fell to .300/.354/.405 by season’s end, suggesting that he could use one more year at the level. The Tigers may give him a job now, though, since they need to get cheaper and justify the trade. Jackson projects as an above average regular, but not a star. He has enough range to stay in center for a few years, but he’ll likely need to move to a corner someday. Offensively, he should hit for fine averages and deliver 20 homers per year in his prime.
Scherzer should open the year as the Tigers’ third starter, and Schlereth will have every opportunity to compete for a bullpen spot. Coke, a homer-prone lefty with a solid fastball-slider combo, could be tried as a starter. The Tigers might now have the financial flexibility to up their bid for a veteran closer and take a look at some potential fourth starters and outfielders. They could definitely use a top-of-the-order guy with both Granderson and Placido Polanco gone.
With Granderson in New York, it seems awfully unlikely that the Yankees will re-sign both Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Everyone seems to think Damon is the better bet to stay. Melky Cabrera should be available in trade talks, but Brett Gardner is also a candidate to go. Since he, like Granderson, is a left-handed hitter, he’d probably be less useful as a reserve than Cabrera going forward.

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.