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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.