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The Miami Marlins signed OF-L Curtis Granderson to a minor league deal potentially worth $1.75 million plus incentives. [2/5]

Curtis Granderson is still pretty good at baseball.

He’s not as good as he used to be. But that’s not a knock, because he had years where he was one of the best players in the game. He can’t really play center field anymore, although he’ll go out there and try if you ask, and he’s graded out slightly below average in the corners by FRAA for the past few years. He was once one of the faster players and best baserunners around, and now he’s an average runner and no longer a stolen base threat.

What Granderson still does well is one of the most important things in baseball: He consistently hits right-handed pitching. His .247/.355/.444 split in 2018 against righties was his worst mark in the past four seasons, and still comfortably above league-average production. He’s been a force against the starboard side dating back to the George W. Bush administration, and remains one today.

He just might be the best off-the-field presence in the game, too. He’s the only three-time winner ever of the MLBPA’s Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, voted on by fellow players to honor the player “most respected based on his leadership on the field and in the community,” winning it again just last season. He also won MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award in 2016, awarded by a panel of league officials, media and fans to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” One of the few things the MLB and MLBPA can agree on, in fact, is how awesome Granderson is. They keep giving him their highest honors.

Just one month of regular-season baseball ago, at the August waiver trade deadline, the Brewers traded outfield prospect Demi Orimoloye to Toronto to obtain Granderson’s services for the pennant chase and playoffs. We didn’t write Orimoloye for this year’s Blue Jays list, and frankly he’s probably never going to hit enough for the Brewers to miss, but he is a real prospect with mildly interesting upside.

The market told us not that long ago that Granderson was worth something, and he played well in a reserve role for the Brewers after being acquired. Better, in fact, than he played for the Blue Jays. Now the market tells us that Granderson is actually worth nothing, only capable of getting a non-roster invite with a team still stripping itself of useful assets. What does that tell us about the real underlying market forces at play?

Nobody is crying for Granderson personally here. He’s already had a great career. He’s made more than $100 million playing this game, and done so with unusual joy. He’s wealthy enough that he’s donated many of his millions to charitable endeavors. He is very likely to make the Marlins, and there’s more than enough room in their outfield for him to play most of the time against righties. He’ll probably get traded to a contender in July or August for the third straight year.

Whether the Marlins pay him a non-guaranteed $1.75 million or a guaranteed $5 million this year is, in a vacuum, likely of minimal consequence to Granderson personally and the baseball world at large. He’s going to show up at the ballpark, put his work in with a smile, and sign more autographs and take more selfies than any other star in the game. He’s going to be Curtis Granderson in all his glory, one of the best ambassadors the game has ever had. The Marlins could certainly use a little more of that. Every team could.

The problem is that the extra money that isn’t going to Granderson won’t be redistributed to Juan Soto or Gleyber Torres, players who returned tens of millions of dollars of “surplus value” and likely will continue to do so for several more years while making near the league minimum. The money isn’t going to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who will very likely be kept in the minors to open the season even though he might already be one of the best hitters on the planet, just to make sure that he gets a smaller piece of the pie no matter how good he is down the road. It isn’t going to Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, who will sign a contract this summer for a small fraction of what he’d get on the open market because MLB introduced usurious penalties to teams going overslot on aggregate in any given draft class. It isn’t going to top Dominican shortstop Robert Puason, stuck in an international free agency market where he agreed to a deal to lock in his slice of a zero-sum bonus money pool and had that deal voided, all before his 15th birthday.

It certainly isn’t going back to fans, facing never-ending price increases in everything from their cable bills to tickets to beers to parking to hot dogs. It isn’t even going to Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, the guys who were supposed to get it, who linger on the market as their peers start to report to Florida and Arizona. When you combine the money Granderson isn’t getting with the millions that dozens of other free agents aren’t getting, it starts adding up to real money, and that money has to be going somewhere, right?

Here’s where it’s going: Non-baseball interests on the ownership side. It’s going to debt service for teams that were bought over-leveraged on the promise of wildly increasing television carriage fees. It’s going as pure profit to owners that bought teams without caring about sports, because they were such a good business investment. It’s going to luxury yachts for owners. It’s going to large bonuses for executives that can slash expenses and increase revenues without regard to whether they can win games.

The product on the field is in danger of becoming secondary. There are an awful lot of teams, including a lot of contenders, who could use a guy to take 400 outfield plate appearances against righties that project to be pretty good. Granderson would help almost every bench in baseball as a reserve outfielder, really all of them if you include his clubhouse virtues. And yet here we are, talking about his NRI deal to a team where winning in the 2019 season is completely irrelevant to their franchise’s interests.

We all deserve better. As fans, we deserve an entertainment product where 30 owners of the 30 teams are doing their very best to win a World Series soon. Curtis Granderson deserves a guaranteed contract to try to cap his illustrious career with the ring that has thus far barely eluded him. Minor leaguers deserve a living wage and basic benefits. Young major leaguers deserve salaries more befitting their contributions. And nobody is getting it—except the owners, taking a bigger and bigger piece of the pie, simply because they can.

Thank you for reading

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Ross Fortner
2/06
Outstanding work ..Well said. I guess the big question is, what can be done? That's a tough one-
Mike Juntunen
2/06
I've got a tough time with this. I really enjoy Granderson. In addition to all of his above virtues, he's also long been that player for me who lives out my childhood baseball dream - we were born 48 hours apart. But I think this over sells him based on how the last 2 years really played out. That multi-year line was driven mostly by early 2017. When the Dodgers acquired him in 2017 he was so consistently awful they left him off the world series roster. Last years performance is a useful bench player but a limited one, with a lot less of the power and with a rapidly declining defense. His last 2 years strongly resemble a player whose skills are quickly declining. I'm not shocked by this outcome even as I hope he has another strong year and gets another well deserved chance at a ring. I think teams viewed Granderson on the market as a LF only platoon bat with declining power. It's not surprising that profile would have a hard time finding a home I feel like this article describes a Granderson of 18 or 24 months ago much better than today's.
Jarrett Seidler
2/06
I suppose this falls into the "you can always find a reason not to sign any player" category, but it still isn't a sensible progression. Granderson got $5 million guaranteed last offseason, coming off said horrible Dodgers run, to start for a team then fashioning themselves as a fringe contender. He had trade value at the deadline to an actual contender. He played well for that contender, which made the NLCS. And then he got a NRI this year to a terrible team, even though he'd help nearly all of the good teams in some role or another. It's weird and there are too many weird things going on right now.
Mike Juntunen
2/06
I think something I really should have mentioned is that modern roster construction really doesnt have much space for platoon-only, LF or 1b only bench bats. Granderson is the corner OF variation of all those 1b types lCron, Bour, etc) who dont really fit a contenders roster prior to September roster expansion. As the plausibility of playing him in CF declines so does the plausibility of him having a bench role on a contender for a whole season. And with those dudes it isnt just a question of veterans not getting paid so that cheaper players can. The cheaper ones also get dumped (look at CJ Cron). Those players really need a rule like the 12 pitcher maximum that was discussed yesterday. They have been getting pushed off of rosters for even longer than the more recent off season troubles. Granderson being worth a 25 man roster spot depends on your confidence he can still spot start in CF. -5 runs in 600 innings according to both DRS and UZR in the corners last year doesnt inspire confidence. I am reminded of rumors the Dodgers might trade Joc Pederson. Pederson is 11 years younger but with a very similar profile: low avg, but good obp, good pop, strictly platoon, no arm for RF, no range for CF. Pederson was a lot better than Granderson last year and has 2 years left before FA and it doesnt appear he has any kind of a market in trade. I think there are a lot more factors here than just the slow offseason. I dont think Granderson makes a good poster child for the way that players are getting screwed. Theres much stronger examples even at the low end, of players who have skills teams appear to prioritize and STILL dont get signed (Neil Walker, or any of the many other second basemen for example) Signing with a bad team to get flipped at the deadline is exactly what Granderson was expected to do.
Scott Jones
2/06
I think whether or not you agree on his take on Granderson, his article is not really about Granderson. He is using Granderson as an example of a much, much larger problem. I'm not sure I would sign Granderson to be an aging platoon outfielder, either, but I agree that the article is correct on the larger issues.
Mike Juntunen
2/06
I think we all agree on those larger issues. That Harper and Machado don't have teams is larger than an elephant at this point.
Scott Jones
2/06
Amen.
Todd Tomasic
2/06
I saw Granderson destroy the Pirates just after the Dodgers acquired him in 2017. He hit a slam among other long hits. I was in favor in getting him here as a platoon while we wait for Polonco. He may have tailed off but for those games he earned his money
Shaun P.
2/06
Thank you. This needed to be said, sadly, and loudly and often. Thank you for saying it!
Steve Chandler
2/06
I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here and take the opposing view. Owner's have a right to spend or not spend money as they see fit. I hope the owner of the team I root for is willing to spend what it takes to put a winning team on the field, but if he isn't that is his right. It is then my right to decide that I won't support that team any longer. If the Player's Union wants to negotiate a floor for salaries they can go for it and probably get it, but they'll have to give up something to get it. I'm growing a but weary of reading about the evil, greedy owners not paying the players what they're "worth". They came up with the money to buy the team and can run it however they want. That doesn't necessarily make them evil or greedy.
Adam Peterson
2/07
Agreed. There are a myriad of ways the owners can be spending their money that doesn't necessarily go to yachts and parties. Most teams, do example, are hiring more and more analysts and developers and Australis scouts (BP should recognize this, they're hiring from here). Baseball is not a charity. Owners are not obligated to spend money on things they don't believe will help their team be better. Especially a team like the Marlins, who are at least 2 years away from competing anyway. This is what sabermatricians have been arguing for years: why spend money on a bad team when you can play the kids? Further, fewer jobs for people like Granderson, so had already made $100 million, means more jobs for the minor leaguers who are so egregiously underpaid. No 1/$5 million for Brandy means one guy didn't have to eat ramen all summer. This is an overly simplistic view. Players are worth more to acquire at the deadline than in the offseason. Market forces change, besides, and demanding fringe players like Grandy "get paid what they're worth" is appealing to something really nebulous and fungible. And I too am getting tired of the agenda behind posts like these.
Jarrett Seidler
2/07
If only my former colleagues were the ones getting the money. Suffice to say, it's not, because baseball front office pay isn't remotely competitive except at the very highest levels; you're expected to work for little or nothing at the entry level. And as I wrote in response to the other guy, I'll start accepting baseball as a free market when it actually has to function as one.
Jarrett Seidler
2/07
A major reason these teams are so profitable is because of publicly-financed stadiums, priority tax incentives, and above all a flawed federal antitrust exemption. All of these were given out and have been maintained under the pretense that owning a baseball team was a sort of public trust. All of these things are not available to your "normal" business operation; we need to stop pretending that baseball is or should be one,.
Steve Chandler
2/07
Jarrett, I do agree regarding the stadium financing.