The Granderson Rumor

Over the last couple of days, the rumor mill has flared up in Detroit, suggesting that the Tigers were open to moving Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson in the right deals. The rationale offered for making them available would be cost reduction, as the Tigers have a bloated payroll and are more vulnerable to the current economic climate than most clubs. With Justin Verlander eligible for arbitration, their payroll isn’t going down without making some moves.

But, let’s just take a step back and evaluate the rumor on its face – the Tigers are looking to reduce their costs by trading Granderson, who is owed a whopping $5.5 million in salary in 2010? Really? The actual cost savings, once you factor in that they have to replace him, would be in the low single millions, or about the same amount as they could get by just non-tendering Gerald Laird.

To save a few million bucks, the Tigers are going to give up one of the best values in baseball? Keep in mind, Granderson has been worth an average of $19.4 million over the last four years, and never less than $14 million. He’s a +4 win player under the age of 30. He’s essentially the equal in value of John Lackey, just without all the injury risks, and he’s due a total of $36 million over the next four years.

This is a franchise that just let Magglio Ordonez‘s $18 million option for 2010 vest in pursuit of a playoff spot. Now, we’re supposed to believe that they’re going to turn around and ship off one of the game’s best center fielders to save a fraction of what they wasted on Maggs?

This just doesn’t pass the smell test. Granderson is a star and a massive bargain. When you’re cutting costs, you don’t start with the guy producing the highest return on investment on the roster. It doesn’t make any sense.

There’s merit to trading Edwin Jackson while his ERA is still shiny and he’s not overly expensive. There’s logic behind that. There’s no logic behind trading Curtis Granderson unless you’re getting a monstrous package of talent in return. And that wouldn’t be a cost savings decision, but instead a talent decision.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers trimmed payroll this winter, but I’d be stunned if Granderson was traded. Unless some team is going to take every bad contract the Tigers have with him, he’s more valuable to them as a player than as trade bait.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


46 Responses to “The Granderson Rumor”

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  1. Thanks for writing this, Dave. Dead one When I heard the Granderson rumor, I thought the same thing, but decided it was so insane there must be some angle I was missing.

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  2. gnomez says:

    Dead on. And the idea of Granderson to the Yankees for Austin Jackson, Phil Hughes, and a lesser pitching prospect just makes me cringe.

    By the way, Dave Dombrowski should be inundated with emails saying “Non-tender Gerald Laird.”

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    • Tom says:

      really, dude? Yanks wouldn’t give up that package for Johan Santana, let alone a righty platoon guy like Curtis Granderson exiting his prime.

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      • Steve says:

        well, it was one season of Johan vs. 3 of Granderson.

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      • gnomez says:

        And I’ve actually read this idea proposed somewhere. As for the two main people, I do like Hughes, but I’m not sure how he’d hold up as a starter. Jackson would probably hit for a higher average and similar speed, but have nowhere near Granderson’s defensive ability, power, or gap hitting. Without knowing the third player, I’d have to say the Yankees win.

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  3. CH says:

    I agree with every sentence in this article.

    The problem is that the Tigers haven’t shot the rumors down, which allows them to spin out of control. The NY Daily News will probably report some kind of “Gardner + Kevin Whelan for Granderson” rumor tomorrow and won’t cite a source, or if they do cite a source, it will be “someone familiar with the Tigers’ thinking” which is the new way to say “I’m pulling this out of my ass but pretending to have a legitimate source.”

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  4. Logan says:

    Good, good, stuff.

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  5. Rocco says:

    The Tigers aren’t really interested in trading Jackson or Granderson. They are available for discussion as most players are, in an effort to improve their team without adding payroll. If they have no money to pursue free agents, and don’t have the talent ready in their system, how are they going to acquire talent? Jackson and Granderson are really the only two players they have with trade value and the Tigers are exploring how teams would value them. Maybe they should have announced Ordonez, Willis, Robertson, Bonderman and Guillen were available and wait for the phones to start ringing?
    I could see the Yankees being interested. The Yankees could offer a young starting pitching prospect like Hughes, Kennedy or Joba along with Gardner or Cabrera and Detroit may do it. The Yankees are going to be getting Lackey anyway, so parting with a young arm is no big deal for them. Granderson starts getting a lot more expensive after next year.

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  6. Bradsbeard says:

    Maybe Detroit doesn’t want the headache, or the Cubs simply aren’t interested in Ordonez, but a Milton Bradley for Ordonez swap makes a lot of sense for both teams. Detroit would be paying Bradley half of what they would pay Ordonez in 2010, and if Ordonez’ 2011 option were to vest, he would be owed another $15M to Bradley’s $12M in 2011.

    Bradley gets to play in a low pressure market, and the Tigers get a younger cheaper RF/DH option. The Cubs get rid of Bradley for an aging veteran who could split time in RF or LF and be a nice bat off the bench whose had success in Chicago before.

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  7. Rich says:

    I don’t think any of us know how bad the economy has hit the Tigers. Obviously we know they have no money to spend.

    But the fact that Granderson’s name is even being brought up should give you a clue that things are not good there at all.

    If they are in a position that they HAVE to cut payroll…they will have no choice but to deal these “cheaper guys”…its sad…but the whole situation up there is sad.

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    • Snapper says:

      Then they wouldn’t have let the Ordonez option vest. If they were that desperate, they would have taken the PR hit.

      Good post Dave.

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      • Rich says:

        personally….i will not fault them for playing Ordonez…they were trying to win and Ordonez was racking.

        from my point of view….if i was the manager it would have been tough for me to look at my guys in the eyes and say,” boys…we’re sitting one of our hottest hitters because we don’t have the money to pay him NEXT year”

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      • Steve says:

        there is also the fact that they would have had to fight a grievance with the union if they sat Ordonez once he started hitting. and they probably would have lost.

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    • Nick says:

      Granderson’s name is getting brought up because he’s good and people want him. It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

      Forget the Ordonez situation for a second. The Tigers added payroll midseason by trading for Aubrey Huff and Jarrod Washburn, as poorly as those moves worked out. If they were facing such dire financial turmoil this offseason, they would’ve known about it in July, and they sure as heck wouldn’t have been looking to spend more money midseason just to go bail on Granderson.

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      • Rich says:

        its not just Ordonez though. i mean they have guys who are making stupid amounts of money and can’t be dealt.

        its ordonez..its gullien…its robertson…its bonderman…its willis…its paying the rest of sheffield’s contract…its lyon.

        thats roughly 75 million dollars between those 7 players. 1 of which doesn’t even play for them anymore

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      • Nick says:

        Yeah….and?

        The question is not whether they have a high payroll. The question is whether they are in dire need to slash payroll. All of their moves over the last 6 months or so are strong evidence that they are not in such need.

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      • Steve says:

        i think sheff is off the books now, right?

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    • Alireza says:

      The one counter to the economy argument, which is obviously very valid in Detroit, is that Mike Illich has shown the willingness to spend and that his main business, cheap pizza, is likely doing really well in this economy.

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  8. Omar Q. says:

    Well ive heard that the Tigers are trying to get teams to take Willis in Granderson deals so that could be where theyre cost cutting.

    God knows no-one would want Willis by himself.

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  9. Jack's Son says:

    Why do you only see that 18M as a reason they aren’t trying to save money…Don’t you think that 18M option vesting might have something to do with wanting to shed payroll?

    Have to look at it both ways.

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  10. Dim says:

    “Unless some team is going to take every bad contract the Tigers have with him, he’s more valuable to them as a player than as trade bait.”

    Dave,

    Sorry to nitpick, but it would have been nice if you’d fleshed this last sentence out a little bit; in particular, the question of how many bad contracts would a team need to take to make moving Granderson worthwhile for Detroit? You do an excellent job of demonstrating why moving Granderson alone makes no sense, but without an explanation I’m not convinced that they’d need to shed “every bad contract” to make it worthwhile. (I’m also not sure that GM’s see cost-reduction decisions and talent decisions as entirely separate).

    It seems plausible that packaging Granderson along with, say, Ordonez and Willis to a team that needs two OFs and can carry Willis would bring *something* worthwhile back while saving Detroit $25-30m. It’s tricky since there’s a balance–every bad contract added to the deal would presumably weaken the return–but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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    • Steve says:

      i think he was using hyperbole.

      the other team wouldn’t have to take EVERY bad contract, but like you said, using Granderson to unload Willis *might* be worthwhile.

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  11. rea says:

    What the Tigers are saying is (1) they’re on a limited budget this offseason, but not so desperate that they have to have a fire sale, and (2) that they are not particularly looking to trade these guys, but are willing to talk. That’s a pretty common sense policy, really.

    Bear in mind that much of their money problems are short-term–most of their problem contracts expire after next season.

    The Tigers have a great group of young players–Verlander, Porcello, Jackson, Cabrera and Granderson–but they have a lot of holes, and they are going to have to find a way to spend money or talent to fill some of those holes if they want a world championship.

    As to letting Ordonez’s option vest, they really didn’t have much choice. You can sit down a player for baseball reasons, like not hitting, but you can’t just sit him down to prevent an option vesting–if you are caught doing that, the arbitrator will make you pay the option amount anyway. Ordonez had a tremendously strong finish, and if the Tigers had sat him down, in the middle of a pennant race, it would be very clear that it could not possibly be for legitimate baseball reasons

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    • JH says:

      Yeah, the players union generally doesn’t take kindly to teams sitting players just because they don’t want them to get enough PA’s to vest an expensive option.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      If they wanted to avoid the option vesting, they’d have had to release Ordonez. Not very palatable in the middle of a pennant race, especially since he could then sign on with a competitor.

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  12. Rich in NJ says:

    I would like to know if there is any real basis to this rumor other than Joel Sherman’s reporting.

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  13. acerimusdux says:

    Another way of looking a this, Granderson over the last 4 years has been worth 18.5 WAR. Verlander over the last 4 years has been worth 18.8 WAR. So what is it likely to cost to lock Verlander up for the next four years? Unless it’s less than the $37M Granderson will cost over that time, it would make as much sense to deal Verlander as it would Granderson.

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  14. Bono says:

    You said it yourself: he’s due $36 Mil over the next 4 years. If they can trade him and free that up and pick up a prospect or two they don’t need to match his production.

    On top of that he’s declined 2 years in a row and can’t hit lefties for shit. Detroit doesn’t have much they can move, and Granderson is probably their best piece despite his cost efficiency. They obviously feel that they need to do something different to compete and are willing to move him to that end.

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    • H says:

      His salary for 2010 and 2011 in particular are cheap relative to his production (18.5 WAR over the last 4 years) even though as you point out, he can’t hit lefties for shit. Plus, if they trade him, they are going to have to spend some money to replace his production. If they can package him with Willis, maybe it makes sense to deal him, but not alone. As long as they don’t let Magglio’s contract vest for 2011, Granderson should be among their least financial concerns.

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  15. Southsider says:

    Zero chance the Yanks trade Joba or Hughes for Granderson.

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  16. MikeS says:

    As a White Sox fan, I’ll take Granderson’s homecoming to the south side.

    I’ll even give up some decent prospects.

    Since I’m not paying the bills, I’ll take Ordonez or Willis off their hands.

    As a thinking man, why on earth would the Tigers let go of this bargain? Great analysis, Dave.

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  17. jeff.lewandowski says:

    If cost cutting is to be a reality in DET, I’m wondering if Tigers fans would be shocked to see Miguel Cabrera traded this winter?

    Look beyond rumors that he’s worn out his welcome. He has six seasons left on the 7th most lucrative contract in baseball history, set to cost an average of $21M/year thru 2015. Cabrera is no doubt one of the games best young hitters, but not really a tremendous value: his first two seasons were worth (by Fangraphs Dollars) $13.3M and $24.3M. But his trade value could be huge; I’d imagine there are a few rich contenders who would love to pay Cabrera for his production, and pay the young talent DET would demand. Young talent that could provide the Tigers with more bang/buck.

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  18. Steve A says:

    It’s ridiculous to think that Granderson would be traded for payroll savings. However, he is more a valuable trading piece if the Tigers wish to fill some holes that will be there after 2010. He could bring back a couple prospects or near-ready young major leaguers, and that could be more valuable to the team in 2011 and forward than the no-lefty-hitting Granderson.

    I don’t want to see Granderson traded. But these rumors and “journalistic” stories that the Tigers need to cut payroll significantly to the point they would trade Granderson and Jackson to do so are crazy. There has been no indication that DD has been ordered to cut payroll. Just because the city may be struggling doesn’t mean Mike Ilitch is not going to try to win the World Series title he so desperately wants.

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  19. Paul says:

    Saying that letting Ordonez vest in an effort to get into the playoffs is evidence that they don’t have cost concerns does not make sense. The cost benefit of getting into the playoffs far outweighs his contract. Plus, in the context of baseball in Detroit getting into the playoffs would have had even more benefit than most teams. It was a no-brainer and the decision has nothing at all to do with their willingness to shop Grandy.

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    • lookatthosetwins says:

      Really? 18 million dollars is worth playing Ordonez an extra 30 games or so? (I don’t know the exact amount he needed to sit to not let the option vest). I understand that they were in a playoff race, and he was hitting well, but there’s a lot more to think about.

      First, Ryan Raburn is a very similar in overall value to ordonez right now, and sat a lot because Ordonez was playing.

      Second, the small amount of playing time would have maybe netted them 1 WAR in normal cercumstaces, but since he was replacing a good player, it was probably close to nothing.

      Third, having an extra 18 mil on the payroll greatly reducing their chances of making the playoffs this year.

      All in all, looking purely at money and playoff odds, I can’t imagine that was the right move. Pissing off the fans and looking like assholes were probably the main things they wanted to avoid. Either way, if they are that strapped for cash right now and are going to need to get rid of good players in order to pay ordonez, it was absolutely the wrong move.

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      • JH says:

        If the Tigers had sat Ordonez in order to avoid the option vesting they’d A) hurt their playoff chances and B) risk having to pay him the $18 million anyway when the MLBPA files its inevitable grievance.

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  20. Tom says:

    Almost always agree with Dave, but this article seems to omit a lot of information such as Granderson’s regression as a defender and hitter. He’s also proven that he needs a caddy vs lefties. Yeah, he had a great run the last 3 years combined, but he’s now leaving his prime and in a decline. Is his contract reasonable? Sure, but any package would involve prospects plus also paying him more each year when his skills are already eroding.

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    • lookatthosetwins says:

      Granderson projects to be a 3.5 WAR player next year, not taking into account R/L splits. If what you’re saying is true, and Graderson is that bad that he should sit against lefties, that would actually INCREASE his value, assuming he’s below replacement against lefties. I doubt that this is actually true, since he’s a plus defensive centerfielder, but if it is, it doesn’t decrease his value at all. He projects for about a .360 wOBA next year, and that would be higher if he was platooned.

      Also, I’m not sure why you assume he’s in decline. He had an off year, which was fueled by hitting too many fly balls and decreasing his BABIP. He’s still a very valuable player, and I see no evidence that his “skills are eroding”.

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  21. Larry Smith Jr. says:

    One thing alot of the commenters seem to be forgetting — Maybe because you aren’t Tigers fans and so you didn’t follow the season, or just plain forgetfulness altogether — Is that when Magglio Ordonez woke up on the morning of August 1st, he could’ve gone to any baseball website to look up his own stats and he would’ve seen a triple slash that looked like this: 258/329/356.

    He ended the year on an absolute tear (he would post an OBP of .460 over the remaining two months), but there was no evidence on that morning that the tear was coming whatsoever. So people like myself, who lament the fact that Ordonez’s option was allowed to vest, we aren’t mad that the Tigers didn’t sit him in September and thereby allowed his option to vest. We’re mad that the Tigers didn’t sit him in JUNE AND JULY and thereby allowed his option to vest. At that period in time, there were very legit baseball reasons to sit him down, foremost among them being the fact that he was terrible.

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    • Paul Thomas says:

      If “being unlucky” is what you call a “legit baseball reason,” then great. I’d call that “a facile excuse,” but whatever.

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      • Larry Smith Jr. says:

        So the fact that his ISO dropped from the career .208 that he took into the season to .098 through August and .118 overall was unlucky? He carried a career BABIP of .316 into the season, and was .293 from April-August 1………..a drop for sure, but not such a precipitous drop that would indicate “Oh, the balls just weren’t dropping in for him”.

        I can’t find his line drive rate separated by periods of time and I can’t honestly remember looking at it at the time. I know his overall LD% was higher than usual, but all of his numbers look dramatically better due to August+September so I’d like to see the pre-August number, since my specific argument is that prior to August, it was not clear that what happened in August (and September) was coming. Especially at his age. I think everyone understands that baseball is cyclical, but Ordonez was really bad for most of the season. He played MVP caliber baseball down the stretch. At all points in the season — Even when he began hitting — He had markedly depressed power numbers.

        Anyway, I’m going on too much of a tangent about Ordonez in general. The overall point is that if people are saying that the Tigers should not have let his option vest (which I agree with), and the primary rebuttal is “He was hitting well and the Tigers would’ve had to fight the union”, my response to that rebuttal is that he was NOT hitting well during the bulk of the season, during which time he could and should have been sat down more often, which potentially may have prevented his option from vesting, while also making baseball sense.

        I’m open to the idea that he was unlucky, but I don’t see anything that suggests it was true. At least not to the extent that his performance declined. Care to offer up some examples?

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  22. dnh83 says:

    I agree that Mags sucked for the first four months. To those saying the union will fight it if they sit him, couldn’t they have just DFA’d him in July when he was terrible? If money was such an issue for them, they should have done that and played Ryan Raburn more down the stretch. The decrease in their playoff odds would have been extremely minimal I think, and they would have saved their 18 mill. It’s not like they’re getting rid of Miguel Cabrera. To say that getting rid of Mags would have been akin to throwing in the towel, and that it would have meant no playoffs, no playoff gates, etc, is pretty ridiculous.

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  23. mcqfesijiba says:

    What’s all this about Granderson leaving his prime? He’s 28. He has at least 3 years left of his ‘prime’. He’ll be 29 at the start of 2010. A player’s prime continues into their early thirties. Granderson in NY would put up obscene numbers in that juiced ballpark, though as a Tiger fan, I would hate to see him go. Sure, sit him against some tough lefties on occasion, but he is a beast against RHP.

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  24. Lou says:

    I love the idea of Bradley and a prospect or two to the Tigers for Granderson and Ordonez.

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