Tigers Make Out Best in Expected Swap of Granderson
The Yankees got their man and filled the center field position, a spot in which they've been searching for a long-term solution since the end of the Bernie Williams era, but they are not the only ones getting what they need in this blockbuster. Both the Tigers and Diamondbacks also got players of whom they can be proud.
What exactly did they get and how might each player impact their future?
Before touching on the Granderson aspect of the deal, let's get this out of the way: the clear winners here are the Tigers. While each team got what they wanted in a well-balanced three way trade, this is an absolute mission accomplished for Detroit and general manager Dave Dombrowski, pictured above.
If they were going to trade their premium center fielder, it was evident from the start that Detroit was insistent on receiving a premium center field prospect in return. It couldn't have done much better than Austin Jackson, making New York a natural trade partner. While he's probably best off spending more time seasoning in Triple-A to start 2010, Jackson is big-league ready and has the star upside to fill Granderson's shoes in a couple years. This was the key to the deal for Detroit.
Not only did the Tigers bag the immediate heir apparent to Granderson in center field, but they also landed three hard-throwing young pitchers. Daniel Schlereth and Phil Coke could make for a dynamic two-headed southpaw monster in Detroit's bullpen, both of them possessing above-average fastballs and swing-and-miss breaking pitches. Given the early rumors that Detroit wanted another hard-throwing Yankee left-hander, Mike Dunn, it was clear from the start what they were going to try to get.
They were unable to pry that second hard-throwing lefty away from the Yankees, but let's not forget about potentially the most impressive piece of the deal, Max Scherzer. If you look at it from a perspective of getting Scherzer, as well as Schlereth, at the cost of Edwin Jackson, the deal looks even more impressive from a Tiger standpoint.
Clearly Scherzer will need to adjust to the American League, but given his expansive new home ballpark, the transition will not be as drastic as it could be. Although Edwin Jackson was traded as an elite commodity, the reality is that he still has some rough edges and had his bad patches in 2009. So, this is not a case of landing a pitcher (Scherzer) that is noticeably further behind in his development. Both pitchers have outstanding raw stuff, with Scherzer living around 93-95 mph with the fastball, and mixing in a hard slider and a changeup. His stuff may be a notch below Jackson's, and there have been concerns since his days as an amateur about his delivery and how it could impact his long-term health and durability, but the reality remains that the Tigers received a comparable pitcher in terms of ability that is younger and more affordable.
None of these three teams were robbed, but if a loser has to be chosen it is the Diamondbacks. Losing two power arms in Scherzer and Schlereth is one thing, but they did so to get a pitcher that, while very talented, is far from a model of consistency. Jackson should thrive in the National League with his power stuff, but the fact remains that Arizona paid a premium price of two big-league-ready pitching talents. They have to be pleased with landing Jackson, but his price tag may have been a little too steep.
Easing the pain of that big price tag, however, is Ian Kennedy. On his way from New York, where it appeared he'd have a hard time ever getting any lengthy chance to get acclimated to the majors and take his lumps, Kennedy could be an ideal fit in the National League and in the far less scrutinized Arizona market. Do not lose sight of just how talented a pitcher Kennedy is, despite his recent health setbacks and his struggles in 2008. This is a guy who still has the potential for plus command and can throw three pitches for strikes when he's right. With a fastball at 89-92 mph, he is not overwhelming but with an opportunity to learn on the job, the former USC standout is a pitcher with the smarts to make adjustments and become a dependable middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Then, of course, there is the centerpiece of this blockbuster deal, Granderson. Some may be concerned about the dip in his average and the rise in his strikeouts, but this is a case where you trust the tools. The physical tools remain and some scouts thought that Granderson was hitting into some tough luck in 2009 as well. We aren't going to see him settle into a yearly .250 hitter. Expect that average to rebound in 2010. He's a pull-conscious hitter and will strike out, but with the inviting porch at his new Yankee Stadium home, the fit could really be ideal. We could see the home run totals spike even more in his first year with the Yankees.
Granderson will also bring an element to the Yankee lineup they haven't had in recent years. He plays aggressively, uses his athleticism, and knows how to take that extra base when he can. He'll be just 29 on Opening Day, so this is yet another spot on the field that the Yankees can bank on for a number of years. The pessimistic Yankee fan will probably continue to point to the decrease in average in 2009 and his high strikeout numbers, but you can't do much better at a premium position than a multi-talented, athletic player with power like Granderson. And, from a makeup standpoint, this is a personality and a quality human being that you don't need to worry about and can simply insert into the lineup. This is a major victory for the Yankees.
Aside from the players directly involved in this trade, this could also have far reaching effects on the Yankees' roster. What does the presence of Granderson mean for free agent Johnny Damon and current center fielder, Melky Cabrera? If they lose Damon and put Cabrera in left, the upgrade to the roster is not as noticeable as it is essentially Granderson replacing Damon.
Odds are that they will continue to work hard to retain Damon and look to move Cabrera.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.