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.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.