Posted December 07, 2013

Mets take big risk in handing Curtis Granderson four-year, $60M contract

Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
Curtis Granderson, Yankees

Curtis Granderson is staying in New York but moving to Queens after four seasons in the Bronx. (Getty Images)

The Mets have come to terms with former Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson on a four-year contract worth $60 million. It is the fourth-richest deal agreed to this offseason after those given to Robinson Cano (10 years, $240 million with the Mariners), Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153 million with the Yankees) and Brian McCann (five years, $85 million with the Yankees). Like those deals, Granderson’s carries the additional cost of draft pick compensation, though the Mets’ first-round pick, the 10th overall, is protected.

The Mets are showing considerable confidence in Granderson’s ability to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2013 season and to put up big numbers outside of Yankee Stadium, which is especially favorable for lefthanded home run hitters like him. There’s at least one more important reason why Granderson may have a tough time living up to his new deal: New York will slot him in rightfield — it signed centerfielder Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25 million contract last month — where the standard for offensive performance is higher than it is in center. In 2013, the average major league centerfielder and rightfielder produced nearly identical batting averages and OPS marks (.261 and .328 for the former compared to .266 and .329 for the latter). The difference came in the power department: centerfielders slugged .402 and hit 459 home runs compared to a .431 SLG and 640 homers for rightfielders.

The Yankees had intended to move Granderson to an outfield corner this past season, but he twice suffered broken bones on hit by pitches, once in his first spring training at-bat and then just eight games after his return in late May. As a result, his 2013 season didn’t start in earnest until August. He was rotated through all three outfield positions and designated hitter until Brett Gardner suffered a season-ending oblique strain in mid-September, handing centerfield back to Granderson. The defensive metrics from his last two full seasons, 2011 and ’12, suggest that the time has indeed come for him to move to a corner, where he has made just 23 starts in his career.

Granderson’s defensive regression should come as no surprise given that he will be 33 in March. The biggest question will be whether or not he can remain an elite power hitter. Granderson averaged 42 home runs in 2011 and ’12, but his home run rate in 2013 was barely above league average and he received a considerable boost during his four years with the Yankees from his home ballpark. From 2011 to 2013, Yankee Stadium tied Coors Field as the easiest place for lefties to hit home runs in, according to the park factors in the 2013 Bill James Handbook. Prior to his arrival in New York, Granderson’s career high in home runs was 30, and in his two 40-homer seasons in the Bronx, he averaged one home run every 14.1 plate appearances at home and one every 19.2 plate appearances on the road.

Of equal if not greater concern is Granderson’s falling batting average. With the exception of 2011, when he turned in an MVP-quality season despite hitting .262, Granderson’s average has dropped every year since 2007, with his .232 mark in 2012 falling below his .247 in 2010 despite the “spike” in the season in between. Granderson has hit just .231 over the last two years, and while his low average in 2012 could be blamed on bad luck on balls in play, his .229 mark this past season came despite a representative .302 BABIP. Granderson also strikes out a lot (a career high 195 times in 2012 with a similar rate in his abbreviated 2013) and hits a lot of fly balls. The move from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field could result in more of his fly balls staying in the ballpark and becoming outs, thus increasing his difficulty in reversing that downward trend in batting average.

Those low batting averages drag down Granderson’s overall production. He has power and patience, but not enough to overcome a .230 average. Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long fixed Granderson’s career-long difficulties with lefthanded pitching in late 2010, which led to his monster 2011 campaign and that small spike in batting average, but while Granderson has continued to have success against lefties, showing almost no platoon split over the last two years combined, that gain has failed to arrest the decline of his batting average.

There’s thus a great deal of risk in this deal for the Mets. They have signed a player in apparent decline on both sides of the ball for his age-33 to -36 seasons, will put him in a more difficult hitting environment and are doing so at the cost of $60 million and their second-round draft pick. Given that the Mets are a rebuilding team looking ahead to the 2015 and ’16 seasons and the return of ace Matt Harvey, who will miss 2014 following Tommy John surgery, Granderson seems like an odd fit on the field, even if he should be a great influence on the many young players in the clubhouse.

It’s informative that despite the fact that Granderson was among the Yankees’ best players in 2011 and ’12, they made no apparent effort to re-sign him beyond extending him a qualifying offer. Having lost Granderson and Cano on the same day, the Yankees will now regain the draft picks they lost for signing Ellsbury and McCann, effectively relocating the 18th overall pick and their second-round pick to the end of the first round.

30 comments
Mikey A
Mikey A

Even if he hits 25 and steals maybe 15 I will be happy. We needed protection for DW, we needed a big, affable personality in the clubhouse, we needed veteran leadership and we needed to show other big names that we are willing to spend. It's not all about the numbers he'll put up.

Mikey A
Mikey A

I actually think Granderson will be playing in left....

psychsports
psychsports

The Mets signing of Curtis Granderson is being hailed by some as the next coming of Keith Hernandez or Mike Piazza in terms of his potential impact to turn the team around and wake it up out of its current morose state—and that may be the case.

Granderson is a wonderful addition to the Mets. He is the kind of player you want on your team.  Granderson is affable, charming, personable and well –spoken and in tandem with David Wright he will bring more presence to the Mets.

This is also a good move for Granderson staying in New York is going to afford him the platform the city provides and will allow him to prepare for his post playing days which more than likely will be with one of the networks. 

http://psychologyofsports.com/2013/12/07/curtis-granderson-a-piece-of-the-puzzle/

Foreverinpinstripes
Foreverinpinstripes

Sorry, Grandy's a great guy but not sure about this move. Does anyone else remember Dave Kingman? 

M20
M20

Corcoran overplays the risk here somewhat. First of all, it's only 4 years. Second of all, the market has only moved up since the Bay deal, so the fact that this is basically the same deal nominally doesn't mean it's actually the same deal valuewise. He doesn't actually have to be that great to justify the contract. Third of all, all of Granderson's home runs last year would have cleared the CitiField walls as well, so I'm not overly worried about the power. Fourth of all, his injury was of the freak variety - getting hit by a pitch in the forearm - so it doesn't raise huge injury red flags. Finally, this is just a clear upgrade for the Mets in the outfield. He slots into the lineup nicely, and with Granderson in a corner, the Mets' outfield defense is looking very good. Solid move.

ScottSmith
ScottSmith

He will be OK if he stayed healthy. The Mets gotta start somewhere, and they are going to have to pay to get it. Remember nobody went to Detroit until after they overpaid for Pudge

canadianox
canadianox

this signing is a good one for the Mets.....while a bunch of guys are getting north of $15M per year, this guy is $15 for four years. He is a power hitter and that power won't disappear anytime soon, though the silly short porch in new Yankee Stadium won't be there for him 81 times per year.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

Calling Jason Bay!  Calling Jason Bay!  


Wait till the Grandyman finds out that the right field wall at Citi field isn't 318 ft.  away.  

William27
William27

what an absurd signing

$15 million at age 36 ???

absurd

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

You wrote, “his (Curtis) home run rate for ‘13 was barely above league average.”  The man played all of 61 games in ‘13 coming off “broken bones,” Cliff.  They’re not robots.


Despite Curtis’ pedestrian BAs which you discuss in great detail, he’s consistently had high run production, the whole point of batting, and then something I’d have thought a saberhead would note.  Guess it didn’t fit with all the red-flags you’re flying on the deal. 


I like it.  Granderson’s smart, plays hearty, in his prime and his numbers justify the typically outrageous money baseball generates.  A “big risk?”  What’s new?

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

Jason Bay II has just arrived for the Mets.  They may not be competent, but they are consistent.  The last couple of years from this contract will be an utter disaster.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

@Foreverinpinstripes Yeah, sure ("Kingman"), the guy they mentioned on "The Sopranos" ("Paulie" went to his return game).  "Kong!"  Monster shots.  Mets' fans seemed to love him.  We liked him in Chicago too, though, he was a bit moody and BA was atrocious.  I hoped he'd hang on to reach 500 HRs but he retired.  I thought it a classy move.  Just some history. 

TylerNelson
TylerNelson

You don't a 1st u get a 2nd mets 1st round is protected

mantle77777
mantle77777

@NYNBKFarSuperiorx Yeah, that was a good "trade" for the Yankees.  The only problem is they don't know how to develop talent anymore.


taiwan
taiwan

@M20 I totally agree. I don't see any risk here if he's fully healed. His HR total will be down because he'll be less protected in Mets lineup compared to when he was with the Yankees. But he should still be able to hit 30HR easily. He was actually the player I hoped Yankees re-sign.

mantle77777
mantle77777

@canadianox Citi field is going to sap his power.  Look for a lot of warning track outs and probably no more than 25 homers a year with poor defense and no base running skills and a .230 BA.  He is a really nice guy though.

William27
William27

in his prime ??????????? at 33 ???????

March 16, 1981

nyjets011269
nyjets011269

@DanaBunner You mean like A-Rod, Pujols, Cano, McCann and Crawford just to name a few? Those are way, way worse!

EnashWaca
EnashWaca

Actually, the Yankees get a "sandwich pick" at the end of the 1st round.  Mets give up their 2nd round pick.

SonoraDick
SonoraDick

@mantle77777


25 hrs? You never know, but I would think that at max, maybe fewer. What would concern me about his defense would be his poor arm for right field... or center, for that matter. As already stated, great character and a very articulate man.  

utoo
utoo

How does that make it any better? Mets should had learned from those mistakes.

Mikey A
Mikey A

@utoo If any of you people knew anything about sports you would realize none of those guys are comparable to Granderson except maybe Crawford. Look up any analyses or stats about the difference between the aging of power guys and the aging of power/speed guys. Just really dumb comments by all three of you.