A well-loved son of the Second City, Curtis Granderson chose something that felt like home over actually coming home. He signed a four-year deal with the New York Mets Friday, one that will pay him $60 million in total. (It’s thoroughly impressive that he got so much, given that not only did neither Chicago team try to lure him home, but few teams seemed to take a terribly active interest in him throughout the league.)
Granderson, who will turn 33 in March, had a tragically truncated final season with the New York Yankees. After back-to-back 40-homer campaigns, two broken bones suffered when he couldn’t get his hands out of the way of pitches held him to 61 games, 49 hits and 31 runs. He still hit okay when he was in the lineup, but it wasn’t the punctuation he surely wanted at the end of his free-agent statement: it read more like an ellipsis than an exclamation point.
Granderson is a weird hitter. It’s pretty clear that, especially in 2012, he was taking aim at the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. He found great success doing that. Granderson is a fly-ball hitter. He pulled roughly 60 percent of his flies from 2010-12–fully one-third higher than the league average. In 2012, nearly 70 percent of the flies hs pulled left the park, which is over double the league norm. Yankee Stadium was perfect for Granderson, and he’ll certainly lose some power numbers, if not some actual value, from this move.
While Yankee Stadium may have been good for him as a hitter, though, it hurt Granderson afield. The yawning center field there forced Granderson to fully extend himself. He no longer has the range for that, and it showed. He’s now a corner outfielder, a role to which he’s much better suited, and it’s not hard to foresee a Shane Victorino-esque revival season in 2014, with the pressure on his defense alleviated and (one hopes) no broken bones to worry about.
When a guy relies so much on pulling the ball for power, you’ll always worry. Granderson maintains good walk rates, but as much as he strikes out, his offensive value necessarily lives in his slugging average. If his bat is slowing down, or starts to, it could be trouble. If, as can happen once you pass 30, he never gets back the full hand and wrist strength he once enjoyed after the fractures, it could be trouble. There’s plenty of risk here.
On the other hand, last winter, Mets GM Sandy Alderson was asked about his outfield and said, “Haven’t you heard? We’re just moving the fences in to 150 feet.” When asked whether the Mets would avoid spending big on an outfielder this winter, Alderson quipped, “Why would we do that? I have to watch these games, too.” The GM having to make jokes like those just to snap the tension is a good sign that you probably need to saddle up and make a play. The Mets landed Granderson, and will bet on his continuing to do a few things well even as he passes into his late 30s. It’s not the world’s worst bet, and Granderson is one of the game’s best people, so there’s less risk of the deal turning ugly than there may be in other cases.Next post: The Ones Who Stayed: Mike Napoli Re-Signs with Red Sox, Hiroki Kuroda Stays with Yankees
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