Game 4 of the American League Championship Series starts in about an hour, and the Tigers have significantly adjusted their lineup. Torii Hunter is in the leadoff spot, Miguel Cabrera is batting second, and Austin Jackson has dropped to eighth. Why drop Jackson? He has good numbers against Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, but he’s also hitting just .091 with 18 strikeouts this postseason. In other words: It’s been a rough few weeks for a player prone to bad stretches.
That sort of thing is not particularly unusual for the Yankees-connected players involved in the three-team trade that sent Jackson to Detroit in the first place. It’s now looking like Arizona might have given up the best player in the deal — they lost Max Scherzer in the swap — but all of the players who either left New York or came to New York have experienced some level of inconsistency in the past four years, and evaluating the trade from a Yankees perspective has changed a little bit from year to year, and sometimes from month to month.
32 years old
In the trade: From Detroit to New York
Since the trade: .245/.335/.495 with 115 HR in 513 games
The inconsistency: Brutal first half in 2010, turned things around that August, became an MVP candidate in 2011, hit a career-high 43 homers in 2012, and missed most of 2013 with a pair of broken bones. Viewed largely as a top-of-the-order type in Detroit — one who might have benefited from having a platoon partner — Granderson became a middle-of-the-order run producer who was something of an all-or-nothing slugger. Now he’s a free agent, likely to generate a qualifying offer that will result in either one more season with the Yankees or a draft pick. He might not have been an all-around hitter — except that terrific 2011 season — but in the four years since the trade, the Yankees system hasn’t produced a power hitter like Granderson.
26 years old
In the trade: From New York to Detroit
Since the trade: .278/.344/.416 and 69 SB in 570 games
The inconsistency: Jackson’s year-by-year OPS since joining the Tigers: .745, .690, .856, .754. He strikes out a lot (everyone knew that at the time of the deal) but he also has good speed and plays a good center field (everyone knew that too). He’s probably hit for more power than expected, and he’s emerged as a legitimate everyday center fielder, but he’s fluctuated between being a potent leadoff hitter to a guy better suited to the bottom of the order. In those four years since the trade, Brett Gardner has put up a slash line fairly similar to Jackson’s: .270/.358/.389. Gardner’s obviously hit for less power, but he’s gotten on base more and stolen more bases.
31 years old
In the trade: From New York to Detroit
Since the trade: 4.34 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 237 games
The inconsistency: The Tigers have used Coke as a starter, a closer, a middle reliever and a minor leaguer. He had two saves in last year’s ALCS against the Yankees, but was optioned to Triple-A this August and left off the division series roster (only to be added for the ALCS). He’s been pretty good against lefties, but has rarely been used as a strictly left-on-left specialist. The Yankees essentially replaced Coke with Boone Logan, who in the past four years had a 3.38 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 256 games.
28 years old
In the trade: From New York to Arizona
Since the trade: 3.85 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 129 starts
The inconsistency: From fourth in Cy Young voting in 2011 to being traded away mid-season in 2013. These are Kennedy’s year-by-year ERAs since going to Arizona in 2009: 3.80, 2.88, 4.02, 4.91. This summer, the Diamondbacks shipped Kennedy to San Diego for a pair of left-handed relievers, one a big league veteran and the other a minor league prospect (the prospect is from the University of Missouri, so I assume he’s going to be amazing). Still arbitration eligible, Kennedy is fairly established as a major league starter, but it’s hard to envision how things might have played out had he stayed with the Yankees.
Associated Press photo