Grand Cards: Curtis Granderson On The Trading Block?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Curtis Granderson On The Trading Block?

If you were to read this headline in today's paper, who would you guess was the author:

Curtis Granderson's Stock Might Be Slipping

If you guessed Lynn Henning, you would be correct. Now, for the non-Tigers fans among us, Lynn Henning has spent the season with a baffling fascination for the relative failure of Curtis Granderson and has pitched the possibility that Granderson will be traded this offseason time and time again.

Shut up. Lynn Henning is fast becoming to the Detroit Tigers what Michael Rosenberg has become to the University of Michigan and Rich Rodriguez.

Since it is early in the morning and I am eating breakfast, I'm not going to go into a rant and use tons of supporting evidence etc. and instead just pose this question:

Why would the Tigers trade Curtis Granderson?

Let me elaborate. He is 28 years old, known in baseball terms as "entering his prime." He has had a weird, and kind of rough season with his batting average taking the biggest hit. Well, he's also about the set career highs in walks. He has struggled against lefties, no doubt, but in that 2007 season when everybody in the world was on the Granderson bandwagon, he only hit .160 against lefties. As the Ink Stained blog pointed out last week, Ryan Howard hits just .199 against lefties. Grady Sizemore goes .216, and Carlos Pena hits .211. I'm not saying that as a point of defense, but rather that it is hard to write off a player entirely because he can't hit left-handed pitching, especially when he showed signs of improvement one year ago (.259 against LH pitching), and especially when he was anointed as the next great thing two years ago. Regression is ok, if there is improvement in the future--and there is no reason to think that Granderson can't improve.

So, apart from those factors--you know, the ones that indicate that Granderson is still a very good player with a rather lofty ceiling, we can also look at the reason players get traded in the first place. Money.

Tell me, what would you gain by trading Curtis Granderson?

I'm seeing a best case scenario in which you get some prospects, one of which hopefully ends up being Curtis Granderson. Are you with me? Curtis is making $3.5 Million this year. FanGraphs tells us that even in this odd season, with a lower than normal batting average, poor splits and elevated strikeouts, he has been worth $14.4 Million to the team. With salaries that elevate to $5.5 Million in 2010, $8.25 Million in 2011, $10 Million in 2012 and a $13 Million option in 2013, Granderson--if he continues to play as he had this year, which most can agree is below his capabilities in many respects (and Granderson's own self-admission), he will outplay the value of his contract for its duration.

Now, I can see a salary dump scenario in a few years, but the idea of trading Granderson this offseason is patently absurd. It would fit somewhere on the spectrum between malicious malpractice and franchise-destroying. It is not easy to find a good center fielder. Just ask Chad Curtis or Brian Hunter. Or Roger Cedeno, or Alex Sanchez. Or Nook Logan.

Thinking about trading Granderson at this point in his career is a fool's errand. It's akin to taking on all the risk and little of the reward from signing a long-term contract. For Henning to repeatedly bring up this idea suggests that he is either sick and tired of everyone fawning over Grandrson, or that he, like many of us, is frustrated by this year's inconsistency from a player that we all expected to get better every year. Welcome to the club, Lynn. Yes, Granderson needs to be a rock in the lineup and on more than one occasion has failed to come through. But this is baseball. It happens. Sometimes people have down years.

Just for a bit of fun.

1959 .327 BA .410 OBP .940 OPS 27 HR 94 RBI
1960 .278 BA .354 OBP .781 OPS 15 HR 68 RBI
1961 .324 BA .393 OBP .909 OPS 19 HR 82 RBI

Kaline Over The Hill, Trade for Orioles' ROY Hanson Makes Sense
Lynn Henning
28 September 1960

It has been a strange year for Tigers Right Fielder Al Kaline. After storming onto the scene in '53 and winning a batting title at the tender age of 20, it is starting to look like the 6-time All Star may be starting to see the effects of being rushed to the major leagues. With career lows in every major offensive category, you have to wonder if Kaline's potential trade value has taken a hit as the Tigers decide to cash in their chips for some highly touted prospects. Kaline has struggled all year, not hitting higher than .235 in any month until now, not counting the 9 games he played in April. While a hot August and September has boosted the once-fearsome Tiger's batting average, you can't help but wonder if the Tigers would be wise to send Kaline back to his hometown in exchange for one or more of Baltimore's prized rookie pitchers.

--snip--

Simply said, this hasn't been the season that the Tigers needed out of their veteran star. At age 25, the organization needs to ask itself if they were lucky enough to catch lightning in a bottle, or if Kaline's career peaked early and it is time for the team to sell high while they still can. With the opportunities on the trade market, it would be silly for the team not to take a look.


Geez, no wonder "in the mid-1960s Kaline grew bitter about some of the negative press he was receiving in Detroit, where they felt he should be doing more to bring a title to the town. He even talked openly of being traded." Good to see that Henning lives up to the proud tradition of the Detroit media criticizing its local stars (don't get me started on their poor treatment and later, silence, on how unbelievable Miguel Cabrera has been in Detroit so far. This guy is a STAR and he's gets less press than Tony Clark.)

Granderson is no Al Kaline (Kaline was only 25 in 1960 and a 7 year MLB Veteran!), but sometimes people have down years. It doesn't make any sense to make silly moves because of one year, and there is no doubt in my mind that everyone in the Tigers organization is aware of that. Time to get up to speed, Mr. Henning.

Aside

With all of the bitching that teams and fans do about the World Baseball Classic, is it possible that Granderson's inclusion in that tournament stunted his preparation for the year and has kept him from improving? He has stated that he has felt uncomfortable all year, and (HR not withstanding) has shown it in his at-bats. Is it unreasonable to claim that by going into competitive game mode so early in the season and missing out on spring training at-bats and instruction, that his ability to get into a groove was hampered? I'm not sure, and it is hard to say that given that he has had a full season to improve, but I'm guessing that it is hard to make adjustments on the fly (aka during the season) when you're still a young player and facing new pitching every night and focusing so much on winning games. Just a thought.

Update
The cutoff man blog on milve.com is on the case as well. Granderson trade talk is way premature at best, foolish nonsense at worst. Nice to see that I'm not alone in this.

10 comments:

  1. Wow. Your breakfasts last a long time. Thanks for not using a ton of evidence. For a moment, I thought I was reading one of Night Owl's posts, then I realized that there weren't any baseball cards pictured.

    You put up a good argument as a fan and as businessman. Granderson should stay with the Tigers.

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  2. Yeah, the first half was during breakfast and then I had to rush off to work, and of course, couldn't help myself and starting pulling in the numbers. So it was breakfast at the point when that sentence was written (and the next few ones), and then from the Kaline stuff onward was all at work (just don't tell the boss).

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  3. Wow, Lynn Henning has been around for a LONG time! I am not a Tigers fan at all. Unless the Tigers wanted to trade Curtis to the Rays in exchange for Matt Joyce (that would be a great trade) they would be STUPID to trade him. The Tigers are hitting on all cylinders with fans nationwide. Not only are they on the way to the playoffs-Granderson, Inge, Verlanders, Cabrera are 4 of the most popular and most marketable players out there. The Tigers probably make enough to cover his salary based on merch sales alone. He IS a franchise player. This may be an off-year by his standards, but he still plays a Gold Glove center and delivers PLENTY of offense. Just two cents from a guy who lives far away and has not yet had his breakfast. As a Rays fan, I hate Curtis because he is THAT GOOD. That is why we boo him when he comes to bat at the Trop. When Marcus Thames comes up, the Trop is silent cuz no one cares...Hope this made a tiny bit of sense...

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  4. Bravo to long posts!

    Even if it's ripping a fellow newspaper writer (this one, by the way, knows better than to suggest Granderson needs to be traded).

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  5. I'll take Curtis on my team any day of the week. The "trade Granderson" talk is just frustration. I know what the numbers say, but there are plenty of reasons to keep him. Knowing his pride and work ethic, I would be shocked if Curtis didn't bounce back stronger than ever next season.

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  6. Even at next years salary,assuming he doesn't continue to fall,why you trade him ? I would be inclined to think he'll come back.Although,I'd like to see him traded to the National League, so I wouldn't have to see him Cleveland !!

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  7. Lynn Henning is just flat out well....weird. He will write an article on the minor leagues and talk about some infielder at Class A batting .210 with no speed and poor defense and he will then say that he expects him to be a star in the majors. Bizarre stuff.

    As to the Granderson article, Henning (kind of) advocates trading him to shore up an infield need (he is referring to Polanco's expiring contract) and the bullpen (Rodney's expiring contract). These aren't major problems. You can simply resign Polanco who is still productive and probably affordable. The closer position might be a problem next year but you sure aren't going to trade Granderson who could be a franchise player to shore up the bullpen. That's dumb.

    There is something wrong with that guy.

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  8. First, the age of 28 is not the beginning of a baseball player's prime. Individual players certainly vary, but several serious studies of the subject found that batters tend to peak in overall value around the age of 27, and decline from there. I'm not going to regurgitate the research here, but the age-27 phenomenon is a fairly well-established rule of thumb in the baseball projection community.

    By the end of a player's age-28 season, he more likely than not has already produced his most valuable seasons. Chances are good that we have already witnessed the best seasons that Granderson will give us. I know we don't want to believe it. We want to think he is on the verge of accomplishing even more. It is certainly possible that he might. But there is a better chance that he won't.

    The best seasons he has produced were certainly fun to watch. The 20-20-20-20-20-20-20-20-20 (I forget how many there were) season was epic, and one that I will tell my boy (and girl) about when he (and she) starts to take an interest in stats. Granderson may produce another such season. It is certainly a possibility. But it is more likely that he won't.

    In other words, it is a realistic expectation to assume that Granderson is entering his decline phase. Now, it could be a rapid and drastic decline, or it could be a gentle one. Baseball Prospectus had this forecast at the beginning of the season for his yearly WARP scores, starting in 2009: 4.1, 3.6, 3.3, 3.0, 2.0, 1.6, 1.4. BP's statistical projection for Granderson this year looks spot on: .264/.342/.478 vs his actual line of .248/.332/.458. He's missing about 15 points of BA, 10 points of OBP, and 20 points of SLG. Perhaps BP was too optimistic, or perhaps CG has just had bad luck on balls in play. It looks like his Walk rate has been better than expected, and that's a marker that generally bodes well for a gentle decline phase. At any rate, I think we can give the BP projections some credit for accuracy, and we can look at the 3.6, 3.3, 3.0, 2.0 projections as a baseline WARP expectation for the four years following this one. And make no mistake about it: those are good numbers to get from a CF that plays very good defense.

    Are those numbers at that position with that kind of defense worth $5.5, $8.25, $10, and an optional $13 million over those seasons? In 2010, certainly. In 2011, maybe. In 2012 and 2013, no. The marginal value of a win depends a lot on context, but the central question is this: can the Tigers make the playoffs as currently constructed in the next couple years? If yes, then that's an argument to keep CG. If no, then it is an argument to trade him for prospects that can be part of the core of the next Tigers playoffs-bound club.

    And if you are going to trade him, you should do it sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more CG will decline and the more value erodes from his contract. The value in his contract is in the next two years. You have to find a team that wants an undermarket star-to-superstar CF for the next two years, is willing to take on the contract, and will give up a package of prospects in return. I don't know what team that is, but there are 29 out there to talk to, and some of them might be a good fit.

    It hurts to talk about trading him. I know it hurts. I'm watching Mark Reynolds have an epic year for a very bad DBacks team, and I'm falling in love with the guy. Can I stomach the thought of the DBacks trading him two years from now for a bunch of minor leaguers? No. I don't even want to think about it. I want to think about Reynolds manning the hot corner in the desert for the next decade. I want to think of him having the best career for a slugging-3B since Mike Schmidt. I want to think about him going into Cooperstown with a DBacks hat on.

    (cont’d)

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  9. (cont'd)
    But the club has to do what the club has to do. The club succeeds best when it makes the playoffs. Holding on to popular players when the production does not match the price tag is a recipe for disaster. If Detroit trades CG, if Arizona on some dark distant day trades the Sheriff, we will despair and lament. We will hurt. We do not want our heroes to wear other uniforms. But we should take some measure of solace by recognizing that the club is trying to put the best team on the field when they have a chance for the postseason, when they have a chance to put a flag on the wall forever, when they can have a chance, if just a chance, to win a World Series, to dogpile at the pitcher's mound, to give us a memory we can cherish forever.

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