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December 8, 2009

Transaction Action

Three-Way Fun

by Christina Kahrl

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DETROIT TIGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed free-agent SS-R Adam Everett to a one-year, $1.55 million contract; signed LHP Brad Thomas to a one-year contract; traded LHP Clay Rapada to the Rangers; outrighted RHP Zach Simons to Toledo (Triple-A). [12/7]
Receive RHP Max Scherzer and LHP Daniel Schlereth from the Diamondbacks and CF-L Austin Jackson and LHP Phil Coke from the Yankees in a three-way trade for CF-L Curtis Granderson (to New York) and RHP Edwin Jackson (to Arizona); signed C-R Robinzon Diaz to a minor-league contract. [12/8]

It might be easy to characterize this as the Tigers' legacy of monster contracts rising up and killing their brief bid for success in the AL Central, but I see it as a bid to sustain that success beyond the life left on the innumerable mistake contracts left over from the 2006 pennant team. Their 2010 bid for success was tough enough to rely upon, but instead, this was a great job of converting the two years you had left on Jackson for stuff that will sustain the Tigers far beyond that. Adding Scherzer behind a rotation built on Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello sounds pretty interesting as far as what that means for the next four or five years, certainly more so than betting your future on what Edwin Jackson becomes or fails to become before he reaches free agency. Putting Daniel Schlereth in the Motor City might provide the club a premium closer in due time, but at the very least gives them a flame-throwing lefty reliever who could be as much an asset to this club as Matt Thornton is for the White Sox-but with the benefit of cost control for the next six years.

(In such a circumstance, I'm willing to forgive the decision to re-up with the neo-Oyler, Mr. Everett. Why not give a young rotation the benefit of his work in the field, since winning's already hobbled by the money already committed to the halt and the lame for 2010? He won't help them win the AL Central in 2010-but the Tigers aren't going to win the AL Central in 2010, not unless 85 wins is out of reach for even its best club TBNL in an even more tepidly paced race.)

Certainly, thinking beyond next season was already the tack the team was on, once they were obviously happy to let Placido Polanco scoot as a free agent and presumably replace him with Scott Sizemore. That they also managed to add the man who should be the center fielder for that team over than same extended time frame, that's genius, especially in how it converts the new Andy Van Slyke-with all of the tremendous benefits but equally tremendous hazards and expenses-into an everyday player they can probably just plug right in next season and conceivably win with in 2011 and beyond. (Again, this is the AL Central we're talking about.) Not that getting Austin Jackson's an upgrade over Granderson, but the savings aren't inconsiderable, and there's nothing about this trade that eliminates the Tigers' freedom of action once they're no longer carrying Magglio Ordońez, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, and Brandon Inge after next season. Jackson, like Sizemore and Scherzer and Schlereth, will be a big part of that good team, one that wouldn't exist anywhere outside of Dave Dombrowski's daydreams if he doesn't give up something to get something. As much as five years of control of Granderson's the big chip, not Edwin Jackson; the latter's the chuckle-worthy benefit of having gambled and won by flipping the sabermetrically immortal Matt Joyce to the Rays last winter.

What all of these moves really bring home to me is the extent of the financial penalties involved with those past commitments, but also the hit in the pocket the franchise took with a decline of 700,000 in just paid attendance, and the perhaps more troubling hit they took in terms of premium seating and luxury suite sales, given the even more starkly ruined collapse of industry in the crumbly buckle of the Rust Belt. And I know, it's a canard that ticket sales aren't what fuels payroll, but that's a delightfully abstract argument when you're not the one taking in the money or making payroll or staring at an empty stadium. Not to be too sympathetic for the decision-making team that did, after all, stick itself with the liberally well-compensated broken former somebodies populating the roster, but it seems silly to just flat-out ignore the issue.


NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Traded RHP Brian Bruney to the Nationals for a PTBNL. [12/7]
Acquired CF-L Curtis Granderson from the Tigers for RHP Ian Kennedy (to the Diamondbacks) and CF-L Austin Jackson and LHP Phil Coke (to the Tigers) in a three-way trade. [12/8]

For the Yankees, this seems simple. Giving up Jackson and Kennedy to get a better answer for their lineup and their outfield seems like a straightforward challenge deal of sorts, in that better to have Granderson now to contribute towards a bid to win now and into the future than hope Jackson works out. Admittedly, Granderson's a platoon player-his career rate of .210/.270/.344 versus lefties isn't getting better, and it isn't going away. But as a tremendous source of lefty power in a park that seems to reward power, why futz about with the Melky Cabrera types when there are pennants to win? Perhaps Cabrera's future is as Granderson's caddy, but there's nothing that doesn't say that the Yankees couldn't just stick Granderson in the ninth slot against lefties and count on the rest of the lineup to deliver. Assuming of course Joe Girardi will think in such terms; Sparky Anderson was able to do this with Lou Whitaker back in the day, and no psyches were fractured.

Contractually, Granderson's a significantly better add-on than playing in the Holliday or Bay sandboxes, because he's younger and a better defender in that he's at least a playable center fielder (whatever flavor of defensive metric you use). But the other key consideration is that he's also cheaper-signed through 2013 for $23.75 million, for an additional $11 million if the Yankees pick up his club option. In some ways, it's similar to the Yankees taking on the heavier back end of Nick Swisher's deal he'd originally signed with the A's-why not grab a good player mid-career after a down year when you can afford him, and have the sort of offensive strength to afford the potential for a down year? After affording themselves CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett at prices the market couldn't match, the Yankees can move down-market by their standards and get quality at prices few others find reasonable. It'll be interesting what this does to either Holliday or Bay in terms of getting deals for eight-figure per annum, but I wouldn't see this as a positive for them.

There are two additional considerations as far as what this achieves for the Bombers. First, it's about making sure the so-called "Core Four" get every opportunity to be-ring as many fingers on a second hand as possible. Granderson's headed into his age-29 season, so his future's now, and his value is for the meaning he'll add to the tomorrows he helps create for the careers of Jorge Posada or Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter or, presumably, Andy Pettitte. Wail about economic circumstance if you must, but this actually a happy thing to see-Brian Cashman knows the window won't be open forever, so why not make sure you go down with a bang, not a whimper?

Finally, the other interesting implication is what this might mean for any effort to re-sign Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Now, instead of absolutely having to find a DH and a left fielder as well as employ Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner in center, the question now is whether or not they want either man for the DH slot, and whether they'd be willing to live with Gardner and Cabrera absorbing the at-bats in left in an outfield rotation. (And will they want to add a right-handed lefty thumper to create a collection of mix-and-match outfielders to keep Girardi busy while he can leave his All-Star infield alone.) They can afford to go to both Damon and Matsui and offer mutually exclusive "take it or leave it" offers, and the first guy to say yes gets to stay and cash post-season shares, while the other gets to try and take a life and the tail end of a career away from the bright lights as a serious enterprise, with dignity. Good luck with that, loser-to-be-named-later of that particular dare, you'll find no envy here.


TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired LHP Clay Rapada from the Tigers for future considerations; outrighted RHP Willie Eyre to Oklahoma City. [12/7]

There are worse guys to have as your token lefty, and this really should spare them any further Everyday (or not so much) Eddie Guardado action after taking that far beyond EEG's expiration date last year. He struck out 34 percent of opposing lefty batters in Toledo last season, throws harder than most LOOGY aspirants, and held lefties to .210/.279/.274 last year for the Mudhens. We'll see what the future considerations wind up being, but this definitely sounds like a better use fo a 40-man spot than Eyre (or Guardado).


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired RHP Edwin Jackson from the Tigers and RHP Ian Kennedy from the Yankees for RHP Max Scherzer and LHP Daniel Schlereth in a three-way trade. [12/8]

So that's what happens when you leave Snakes out in the sun too long-they really do have brains to bake. Maybe I'm overreacting to this, in that I might risk trading Schlereth for Kennedy if I liked the headliners on an exchange. But this, I don't like, even as a past booster for Edwin Jackson. As much as I liked Jackson's unevenly great breakthrough season in 2009, I wouldn't want to trade two years of arbitration with him for Scherzer's future. Jackson's peripherals are nice enough-a 5.9 SNLVAR, .566 SNWP, yes, I want those things. Put him in the National League, and yes, maybe that helps him iron out his hard-earned reputation for inconsistency. But it's just two years, at a steep price, you're putting him in a bandbox of a ballpark, and it still leaves the Snakes waiting to sort out how to fix their offense. Maybe we can accept a casting exchange of Jackson and Brandon Webb in the 2010 rotation as a big step forward from Scherzer and Doug Davis.

Swell, fine, it's a modest cost savings compared to what the free market might get you, for a recently-minted starting pitcher of merit, albeit one whose performance record you'll find alongside the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "mercurial." Playing for the upside risk isn't the worst idea in the world, especially when you're going to need to take some risks with a team that's now two seasons removed from relevance. The real problem is that this is a gamble based on the proposition that last season's offense had enough going for it to win the NL West-and as we should be used to by now, it wasn't, not in a division that had the Dodgers playing for bigger stakes, and has the Rockies fairly well established as a team that can beat you with pitching and defense in any environment, and scores enough runs to make it play anywhere, home or road. Stephen Drew and Chris B. Young have come up short, Conor Jackson's recovery is far from certain, and I'm not getting on that Brandon Allen bandwagon any time soon. That, I'm not so excited about, and while an improved attack might bank a few more wins from Jackson's contributions than Scherzer's in '09, it's a sandcastle in the sky as likely to go to dust as it is to provide the foundation for a new run of success.


WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired RHP Brian Bruney from the Yankees for a PTBNL; released RHP Saul Rivera. [12/7]

Consider this another instance of ditching the disposable on the dumpster-diving neediest, because Bruney's blend of girth, fragility, and occasional dominance reminds me more than a little of the Bob James types of the world. If you're that fancifully attached to the notion, you might anticipate untapped value, and in the best of all possible circumstances, you wind up with a half-season All-Star reliever (gotta have a token Nat, after all) before you frantically exchange him. Me, I'm not buying any of it. Bruney's got a career 4.78 FRA, which isn't really very special. Maybe his strikeout rate comes up a bit from 20 percent of all hitters now that he's in the senior circuit, and maybe he's also due for a drop in his homers-to-fly balls ratio by moving to the easier league. Admittedly, he's a gift horse, and should be accepted as such-look too closely, and you'll start second-guessing the pity-plucks among your transactions, even if you do have to go to arbitration with him.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

30 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

thenamestsam

I really like this deal for the Yankees. My only concern, which Christina mentions is that Girardi will play Granderson as his #2 hitter come hell, highwater and left-handed pitchers. As long as he's treated essentially as the platoon option he is, maybe with Melky sliding from left to center and a lefty masher going in left, this could be a major boost.

Dec 08, 2009 15:37 PM
rating: 0
 
toanstrom

Christina, thanks for posting this so quickly. As a Tiger fan I was curious about your enthusiasm for Austin Jackson. I look at his batting line and see no power, an unsustainable BABIP and a 3/1 K/BB ratio. He looks a lot like Michael Bourne to me, am I missing something?

Dec 08, 2009 16:06 PM
rating: 1
 
Adam Hobson

Supposedly Jackson has the tools to develop power, but I keep thinking of him as Jacoby Ellsbury with half the steals, half the hype and better defense in center (depending on whether you think Ellsbury is actually good in center or not).

Dec 08, 2009 16:17 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Much of my response is predicated upon his being a young player for Triple-A, having been there for his age-22 season. Enthusiasm for him might be mitigated by his projected peaks via Clay's Minor League EqA Report:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/statistics/pageINTpeak.php

... which suggests he'd produce in his best campaign(s) an OBP in the .340s and an EqA in the .260s. Not great, but if he's playable in center and has somewhat better upside because of his youth, I'm certainly intrigued.

Dec 09, 2009 14:09 PM
 
planman81

I really like Edwin Jackson pitching in the NL West as opposed to the AL Central. He is still very young and put together a nice season against superior competition in the Junior circuit. The Snakes will have a nice rotation if Webb comes back healthy and Kennedy may work out well in the pen or a back end starter. Schlereth blew a few games last year and got pounded in doing so, I don't seem him as any type of closer in the future for any team. The Tigers also made out well in this trade and all in all it seems like its going to just about help everyone involved and maybe screw Boras a little but which can only be good.

Dec 08, 2009 16:14 PM
rating: 0
 
Adam Hobson

How is Granderson's defense in center? Is he just passable or an actual asset there? If he's only passable, and the Yanks don't acquire a full-time left fielder, I wonder if makes the most sense to play Swisher in left, Melky in right, Gardner in center and have Granderson switch between center and right depending on who in the Melky/Gardner platoon is starting.

Either way, I definitely like the idea of making Melky the 4th outfielder he really is and limiting his bat to 350-400 plate appearances while maximizing his range and arm in the corner outfield when he does play.

Dec 08, 2009 16:26 PM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

His lifetime stats (offense and defense) are almost decimal-for-decimal exactly equal to Grady Sizemore's, if that's any help. He just shows up a little bit less on the highlight reels.

Yankees fans, you got yourself one heck of human being with Granderson. He and Derek Jeter will be natural friends, and will add humanity to your club to the same degree Nick Swisher added levity. Our Tigers household was despondent to see him go.

Dec 08, 2009 17:14 PM
rating: 1
 
Kman23

I can tell you in Detroit he was good enough to play shallow and then on a deep hit just run to the spot and then turn and find the ball. The reason he had so few highlight plays at center is due to his speed and ease of catching up to the ball. His arm is so-so and his accuracy nose dived last year but his range is plus plus and his glove has to be near plus plus.

His .250 BA and his .190 line against lefties would be my concern.

Dec 08, 2009 19:11 PM
rating: 0
 
Juris

I watched a lot of Tigers games this year. Grandy did seem to have a less accurate throwing arm this year than last, perhaps because he was overthrowing on occasion. Also late in the season he made a couple of really strange plays with balls that were hit straight toward him but well over his head, in which he just seemed not to pick up the ball very well on balls he would have reached if he had his normal jump.

So, I would have his eyes checked. These were extremely uncharacteristic play for Granderson to make.

Also this past year, in contrast to the previous year, while he showed the same basic power stroke as before he didn't seem to run the bases as aggressively.

Still, I'd love to have him on my team for what I think we'll see as increased power hitting as he ages.

Dec 08, 2009 21:58 PM
rating: 0
 
BurrRutledge

This may be an improvement in CF over Melky, but I'm skeptical that it helps address their needs at corner OF or DH.

Melky's bat has come a long way as he's matured, but it's is still a full notch below the performance one might expect out of a Yankee Stadium corner outfielder... But then again, they did play Damon in left. And Swish wasn't exactly Bobby Abreu last season, either... and that didn't keep them from succeeding last season. I suppose they could put him in right field and move Swisher to left. But that's not much of an upgrade.

If they choose to do that, fine. But if not, then what do they do with Melky? Do they just platoon Melky and Curtis in CF?

Dec 09, 2009 08:59 AM
rating: 0
 
jcender

No coverage of the Pudge and Blanco signings?

Dec 08, 2009 16:57 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

No worries, more to come in the next day, but here's where the combination of talking to people and eating and a ghastly internet connection here in the media room contributes to results I wish I could top.

Dec 08, 2009 20:47 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

"...and whether they'd be willing to live with Gardner and Cabrera absorbing the at-bats in left in an outfield rotation."

If you're still giving Gardner and Cabrera at-bats, effectively punting a lineup slot, why not acquire a left fielder that's a better hitter than Granderson and keep Gardner/Cabrera in center? The extra bonus to that is you don't give up Austin Jackson.

Dec 08, 2009 17:12 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Kory

It doesn't appear he will ever be good enough to start for New York, so Jackson's only utility to the Yankees was as trade chip.

Dec 08, 2009 18:26 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

I can understand that, but even then, if you're resolved to play some kind of Gardner/Cabrera platoon, why not do a trade for a left fielder who hits for more? Part of Granderson's price comes from him being able to play center field and he loses a chunk of value if he's used in left.

Dec 09, 2009 03:28 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Why not bring back Xavier Nady cheaply, to get the lefty masher I suggest? I sort of like the Weaver-like mix-and-match possibilities of an outfield that has Granderson, Swisher, Nady, Gardner, and Cabrera, in terms of quality defense and a mix of power and OBP. Signing Nady for a low-end deal also lets you go get your DH of choice—maybe a return by Nick Johnson? That'd be fun.

Dec 09, 2009 08:13 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

Nady's a good idea.

Heck even DeRosa might be interesting. He could spell the entire infield and play left field against lefthanders. Over the last three years, he's had a .853 OPS against lefthanders.

Dec 09, 2009 09:10 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

I'm wondering if Woods is confused because he heard Tigers were involved in a 3-way today?

Dec 08, 2009 18:36 PM
rating: 8
 
JoshC77

Anyone else notice Scherzer's jump in innings this past season? Are the D-Backs hedging their bets and selling him off early when his value is high and before he blows his arm out?

(Sorry, it's just the only way I can rationalize why they would do this deal)

Dec 08, 2009 19:08 PM
rating: 0
 
jdtk99

look at his pitchf/x data. his velocity was dipping toward the end of the year. he also has a long history of shoulder problems. i think scherzer comes with more risk than most analysts have been willing to admit.

Dec 08, 2009 22:25 PM
rating: 1
 
ofMontreal

I agree. AZ doesn't have the greatest history in deal making, but they know something we don't. I'm not a fan of either Scherzer or Schlereth, so I'm not so bothered with their movement. And maybe Ian Kennedy will survive now that he's not getting eaten alive by Boston & Tampa. I'm taking a flyer on this one till at least the all-star break. I also think Granderson will hit the sh*t out of the ball in Yankee Stadium and that's the real motivation here. He could be good for 30 hr.

Dec 09, 2009 06:32 AM
rating: 0
 
T. Kiefer

Could it be that they simply have a "win now" over a "win later" attitude, like Brian Cashman? The NL West looks real competitive in 2010, and now with Edwin Jackson in the mix, they could bet on pretty much winning three out of five games with their front three men.

The Tigers treat their pitchers very delicately (cf. Rick Porcello), so if Scherzer has any issues, the Tigers will nurse him well.

Perhaps the only thing I'm happy about the trade from a Tigers' fan's standpoint is that Scherzer is a PECOTA nut, isn't he?

Dec 09, 2009 07:44 AM
rating: 0
 
Richie

Agreed with Josh. Unless the DBacks know something about Scherzer none of the rest of us do, trading him just seems insane. For that package???

Dec 08, 2009 19:49 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

BTW, this morning I appended the Robinzon Diaz pickup to the Tigers' segment--not a big deal--but realize that I also gave the addition of Ian Kennedy to the D'backs short shrift in the hurry to get something up last night. I guess I've bought into the velocity-driven argument that, for as good a strike-thrower as Kennedy might be, if he's healthy I don't expect much more than a fifth starter type ready to arrive at some point during the season, one capable of aspiring to be a more secure fourth.

Given the question marks after the front three slots, that's something the Snakes do need, of course, but it's also not the sort of value that redeems the deal to my way of thinking. I realize that it's unfair of me to bang on Arizona's not fixing its offense within this one trade, and there's plenty of winter ahead of us, but I guess I see the win-now play that adding Jackson involves as unachieved as long as the lineup's not shored up.

But where? Second base, where they seem satisfied with Ryan Roberts? Whichever position Conor Jackson doesn't play, between first and left field? Or will they just stick it out with Eric Byrnes and Gerardo Parra? Do they even have money to spend at either lineup slot? Heading towards Eric Hinske and Ronnie Belliard for low-end deals might help fill the bill, especially given that both have multi-positional experience.

Dec 09, 2009 07:40 AM
 
PeterBNYC

Trading for Granderson is something I recommended the Yankees do in a BP comment last year, promptly derided. And what do I know, they won a World Series anyway without a "true" CF. (I also suggested last year that Melky, Austen Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Bruney might make a package that would lead the Tigers to bite- So much for my deal-making skills). The signal aspects of this deal have mostly been pointed out, but I think Granderson is less recognized as the leading CF he is because he makes it look so easy (and in the process makes his LF and RF teammates look better). His weakness against LHP's will become mostly background noise with the Yankees, but whoever pointed out shifting him to the 9 hole against lefthanders is thinking the BP way- which may not be the Girardi way. I also think his power will be at least sustained in NuYankee Stadium, which they will need if one (or both) of Damon and Matsui depart. This is a serious upgrade defensively and offensively. Good job, Cashman.

Dec 09, 2009 12:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

Actually, Jim Leyland came around to "the BP way" by September, pushing Granderson down towards the bottom of the order against lefties once the problem became too obvious to ignore. Whether Girardi's taking notes from a peer... well, that's why they play the games, right? :)

Dec 11, 2009 22:19 PM
 
andrews

Also, just because the media bang on about it, it doesn't mean character is unimportant, and Granderson is a 24 caret good egg.

Love the trade from the Tigers perspective too.

Dec 09, 2009 14:23 PM
rating: 0
 
smallflowers

Funny how the old MLB cliche about such-and-such a player only being recognized as a super-star when tucking his glove under the lights for 82 big ones in NYC have amazingly been rebirthed in reverse by Grandy. Yanks fans don't know what they've just landed, yet in six months we'll hear about the 2nd coming of Mantle. He is an elite-level defender in the outfield, coming off a down year offensively (in which he still managed 30 homers and many other large counting stats) and defensively. He strikes out a lot, walks a lot, flys around the bases and is Adam Everett against lefties. He has been 95% of Sizemore during his career, and is one of the great character men in the game. He ain't playing in a corner, people, unless Girardi's small game-within-the-game errors grow into the bigger kind.

There are a heap of reasons why the only criticism that could be levied against this amazing swing by the Janks has gone unspoken (eg, why not just sign Cameron & keep all the little people around): A) They still have all the money in the world with which to do as they please, which includes B) that they can still sign Cameron or someone better to play a corner and C) Granderson is a special player whose specialness cannot easily be eclipsed. Not a dominate player, and probably not a HoF player, but one that plays a key role at a premium position on multiple championship winning teams. With a smile.

Melky and that other nub aren't bumping this guy off position, ever, or as long as sanity reigns at least within the dugouts of the Bronx, because the same phenomena that makes you think Melky could do so is also that which makes Granderson "sound" to you like a corner. But, man, just wait until you see him...

Dec 09, 2009 19:50 PM
rating: 0
 
pdelacorte

Everett the neo-Oyler? Isn't he more the post-modern Oyler?

Dec 10, 2009 03:10 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff
(11)

That very much depends on which meaning of 'postmodern' you or I wish to employ, not to mention which one captures the Tigers' feelings on the matter. It has negative and positive connotations, after all, although that ambiguity might perfectly reflect the difficulty in pinning down Everett's utility.

Dec 10, 2009 10:36 AM
 
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