First reaction: Trading for Curtis Granderson was a strong move by the Yankees. I’ve said before that I liked Granderson, but I understand there are those who think GM Brian Cashman screwed up. So let’s take the common criticisms one by one:
1. “He can’t hit lefties”: No doubt, Granderson’s lefty splits last year were bad. But for those who use this as the cornerstone of their argument, how about you take a guess at how often the average player faces a lefty pitcher in a given season?
Last year, the Yankees faced lefties in just about 30 percent of their plate appearances – to me, that’s hardly enough to use it as a determining factor, especially when a) you have a hitting coach who you ostensibly trust to improve your players; and b) you’re talking about a correctable skill.
Consider this: In 1993, the Yankees brought in an outfielder who had an OBP of .273 against LHP the previous season. By 1994, he had a .439 OBP against lefties. That player was Paul O’Neill.
2. “The Yankees gave up too much” But did they? Coke wasn’t a closer of the future, which means that – as a bullpen piece – he’s certainly expendable; and Kennedy, while certainly talented, wasn’t nearly on the same level as Hughes/Chamberlain and had irked some Yankee officials with his ego. So basically it comes down to how you feel about Austin Jackson and, as I’ve said before, when you’re talking about a team like the Yankees it’s almost always the right play to go with the established player over the player who is only potential.
Anyone who says they know what Jackson is going to be is lying. No one knows. Those who say the “best he could be is Curtis Granderson” don’t know that, just like those who say “he’ll be better than Granderson in three years” don’t know that either. All we do know is that RIGHT NOW Jackson is a player who has done very well in the minor leagues and Granderson is a player who has done very well in the major leagues. To me, that’s the part that makes this trade a steal – you traded a player who MAY be good for a player who IS good, and also happens to be young and economically friendly.
(By the way, it’s natural to compare Jackson and Granderson but the two aren’t similar players; Jackson has more speed, but also has yet to show anything close to the kind of power that Granderson has shown.)
3. “I’d rather have Johnny Damon” This leads to the second part of the post — to me, getting Granderson doesn’t mean Johnny Damon is no longer an option for the Yankees at all.
Put it this way: The Yankees are hardly done dealing this winter. With Hughes/Joba/Montero still on the roster, they can still at least talk about Roy Halladay. And with Granderson in the fold, the Yankees can take a harder – and appropriate – line on Damon.
Scott Boras has said Damon has multi-year offers and this is the Yankees calling that bluff. If Damon would come back for one year (or at most two), then he gives the Yankees a DH who can play the OF on days when someone else needs to DH – or just what they’re looking for in that spot. If anything, the Granderson trade may affect Hideki Matsui’s chances of returning to the Yankees more than it does Damon’s.