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Granderson ain’t so bad

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[2]Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot and he was a disappointment in the postseason, but do the Yankees really need to trade him this winter?

Getting rid of Granderson has become a popular position ever since his dismal playoff performance — even before that, really — and I’ve said that trading Granderson might make sense if the Yankees can get a starting pitcher for him, but is Granderson really a must-go player who’s easy to lose and easy to replace?

“I will listen on anybody,” Brian Cashman told Joel Sherman. [3] “But you would be hard-pressed to get enough to trade a center fielder who is a perennial 40-homer-plus man.”

If Alex Rodriguez is no longer a 30-homer guy, and Nick Swisher is on his way out, then only true home run hitters left on the Yankees roster are Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Granderson. Granted, the team will almost certainly add some power at DH or an outfield corner, but the idea that this lineup is overloaded with home run hitters is an exaggeration. Frankly, putting those three — Cano, Teixeira and Granderson — in the 3, 4 and 5 spots wouldn’t be a bad middle of the order. Add Derek Jeter at the top, slide Rodriguez into the No. 2 or 6 spot, and the Yankees have the sensible beginnings of a pretty good lineup.

Three common complaints about Granderson:

1. He strikes out too much
He strikes out a lot, but does he really strike out too much? If he cut down on the strikeout numbers he’d be one of the elite hitters in baseball, but there’s a lot of gray area between the elite hitters and the guys who are a drain on the offense. It’s kind of like the bad routes Granderson takes in center field. Yes, he takes bad routes, but he’s athletic enough to make up for them a lot of the time. The trade off keeps him from being an elite defender, but it lets him remain a viable one. Yes, Granderson strikes out a lot, but those strikeouts come with the significant upside of 40-plus homers.

2. He was a massive disappointment in the postseason
So were most of the Yankees. If Granderson is going to be knocked for his dismal showing this month, it’s also worth noting that he hit more home runs in the final month of the season than in any other month, and before this postseason he was a career .267/.375/.535 hitter in the playoffs (.313/.459/.583 in his first two postseasons with the Yankees).

3. The Yankees can’t afford him beyond 2013
I tend to agree that the Yankees will have a hard time signing both Granderson and Cano beyond next season, and with so much center field depth rising through the system — and Brett Gardner available to play center at any point — it makes sense to leave Granderson off the priority list. But that expiring contract also limits Granderson’s trade value. As Sherman wrote, the idea of a Carlos Beltran-type deal for an elite young starter seems unlikely. It’s all about value here. If nothing else, the Yankees will be able to offer Granderson a qualifying offer at the end of next season and get a draft pick for him. That’s not a terrible fallback plan, and might be as valuable as anything the Yankees will find on the trade market.

Look, there’s some merit to trading Granderson, but a lot of that merit is based on the idea that some other team will value him as an elite run producer who hits for a ton of power out of the center field position. Thing is, the Yankees should — and do — view him the same way, and they’d have to get get similar value to make a trade worthwhile. He might be frustrating to watch swing and miss, but he might be just as frustrating to try and replace.

Associated Press photo