Lloyd McClendon sat in the back of the media room at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott on Wednesday afternoon while the mega three-team, seven-player trade between the Diamondbacks, Tigers, and Yankees was announced.
“It’s amazing how much dumber I’ve gotten in the last couple of days,” the Tigers’ hitting coach said with a rueful smile. “We’ve lost two pretty darn good hitters.”
The Tigers officially sent center fielder Curtis Granderson packing during the third day of the winter meetings, shipping him to the Yankees and right-hander Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks. The Tigers received right-hander Max Scherzer and left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth from the Diamondbacks, and left-handed reliever Phil Coke and center-field prospect Austin Jackson from the Yankees. Also going to the Diamondbacks was Yankees right-hander Ian Kennedy.
Granderson’s exit, which had been rumored since the owners’ meetings last month in Chicago, comes after the Tigers two-hole hitter, Placido Polanco, left as a free agent for a three-year, $18 million contract with the Phillies last week. In the span of barely more than three months, the Tigers have gone from a team that blew a seven-game lead in the American League Central with less than a month to go in the season to missing the playoffs in gut-wrenching fashion to going into semi-rebuilding mode.
If the season started now, the Tigers could conceivably have three rookies in the starting lineup, with 22-year-old Alex Avila at catcher, 24-year-old Scott Sizemore at second base, and the 22-year-old Jackson in center field. Furthermore, Jackson and Sizemore could potentially hit one-two in the batting order. Scherzer, 25, and Schlereth, 23, also figure to be key members of the pitching staff along with two young holdovers in starter Rick Porcello, 20, and reliever Ryan Perry, 22.
Leyland admits that it would be tough to play that many youngsters and still win the AL Central, but he sounds willing to at least try as he rattled off a number of impact rookies he has managed in his 18-year career, including Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and Porcello with the Tigers, and going back to Orlando Merced and Jose Lind with the Pirates.
“Over my career, I’ve probably broken in as many young players as anybody,” Leyland said. “I love young players. I think it’s great for the game as long as you don’t have to break in too many at the same time. If you have to break in too many at the same time, it probably takes its toll on your wins and your losses, to be honest with you. But if you can sprinkle them in with a good club like we’ve got, it’s great. I love it. Everybody talks about not knowing if a player is ready. Young players, if they don’t get a chance, become old players.”
Granderson, 28, certainly isn’t an old player but the Tigers, playing in a city where the unemployment rate is a staggering 28 percent, felt compelled to offload his salary in an attempt to cut down a payroll that was $115 million last season. “Economics are part of the game,” Leyland said. “I wish they weren’t but they are. That’s just a fact.”
As with any player acquired with the Yankees, the immediate question is whether Granderson will be able to handle playing in New York. Leyland laughed that question off. “I think Curtis Granderson will adapt anywhere,” Leyland said. “He’s got a lot going for him: great player, great-looking kid, bright kid, great teammate. New York might be a little bit of a shock to him to start with but I think with the pros they have like the Jeters and those type of guys, that’s not going to be an issue whatsoever.”
Granderson will certainly be an upgrade in center field over the combination of Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. He will bat second against right-handed pitchers but lower in the order against lefties. “We’re excited about what he brings to the table-his athleticism, his youth, his power, and how it all relates to where we play,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “His personality, how people gravitate to him, they’re all plusses.”
The Diamondbacks got what they wanted, a solid third starter in Jackson to slot into their rotation behind Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. Kennedy figures to be the fourth starter. “In the National League West, it seems that everyone has a strong rotation every season,” Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes said. “We really believe that we need as much quality starting pitching as possible to contend in our division.”
There were two other trades Wednesday, as the Rangers sent right-hander Kevin Millwood and $3 million to the Orioles for reliever Chris Ray and a player to be named, while the Marlins shipped reliever Matt Lindstrom to the Astros for two prospects, right-hander Robert Bono and shortstop Luis Bryan, and a PTBNL. The Orioles had been looking for a veteran starter to lead a young rotation, which will be filled with second-year pitchers and rookies.
“We think (Millwood) is going to have a positive cascading effect on Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, and Jason Berken,” Orioles vice president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. “He should really anchor our staff.”
The Rangers immediately used most of the $9 million they will save on Millwood in the final year of his contract to reach a one-year, $7.5 million agreement with free agent right-hander Rich Harden, who must pass a physical examination for the contract to be finalized.
Astros GM Ed Wade said Lindstrom is first in line to replace closer Jose Valverde, who is a free agent, though they will continue to look for more relievers. They could finalize a deal with free agent right-hander Brandon Lyon as early as today. The Astros lost set-up reliever LaTroy Hawkins to the Brewers, who agreed to a two-year, $7.5 million with the free agent. The Brewers also came to terms with another free agent, giving left-handed starter Randy Wolf a three-year, $29.75 million deal. Both contracts won’t be announced until the pitchers pass physicals.
The Yankees retained their third starter as they signed left-hander Andy Pettitte to a one-year, $11.75 million contract. He again figures to follow left-hander CC Sabathia and right-hander A.J. Burnett in the rotation. If the Yankees do not add any other starters, right-handers Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are likely to fill the final two rotation slots. “Andy was our first priority when it came to pitching, and it gives me a comfort level to know I have that with what I’ve already got,” Cashman said.
The Winter Meetings end after this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, but there should be plenty of roster movement this weekend as the deadline for clubs to either offer salary arbitration to their players or allow them to become free agents is midnight Saturday.
A host of players could be non-tendered, including Diamondbacks infielder Augie Ojeda; Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson and left-handed reliever Boone Logan; Red Sox outfielder Brian Anderson; Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes; Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins; Marlins left-handed reliever Renyel Pinto, third baseman Jorge Cantu and outfielder Cody Ross; Royals catcher John Buck, designated hitter/first baseman Mike Jacobs and left-hander John Bale; Angels outfielder Reggie Willits; Brewers right-hander Seth McClung; Mets right-hander Tim Redding and outfielder Jeremy Reed; Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang; Athletics designated hitter Jack Cust and reliever Santiago Casilla; Pirates closer Matt Capps; Padres right-hander Kevin Correia; Giants first baseman Ryan Garko and reliever Brandon Medders; Rays catcher Dioner Navarro and outfielder Gabe Gross; Blue Jays reliever Jeremy Accardo and Nationals left-hander Scott Olsen and closer Mike MacDougal.
MLB Rumors and Rumblings: The Yankees remain interested in Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay, but any trade would have to include either Chamberlain or Hughes and catcher prospect Jesus Montero in any package. The Angels would have to include shortstop Erick Aybar in any deal. … The Giants are considering a host of free-agent infielders, including first baseman Nick Johnson, second baseman Orlando Hudson, and utilityman Mark DeRosa. … The Phillies are expressing interest in free agent right-hander John Smoltz. … The Mets are considering making a large bid for free agent right-hander John Lackey and have talked to the Braves about trading for Derek Lowe. … The Royals are considering signing catcher Jason Kendall as a free agent and trading for Orioles outfielder Felix Pie. … The Mariners have at least cursory interest in free-agent center fielder Mike Cameron. … Outfielder Michael Tucker, who last played in the major leagues in 2006 with the Mets, has been roaming the hallways throughout the meetings in hopes of landing a non-roster invitation to spring training.