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Yankees acquire Curtis Granderson from Tigers

The Bombers get Granderson for Jackson, Coke and Kennedy
12/08/2009 4:41 PM ET
By Joe Pawlikowski / RiverAveBlues.com

Curtis Granderson should bring some improved defense to
the Yankees, in left field or center field. (AP)
INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Yankees set their sights on a player, chances are they'll acquire him. Last winter they went all in for CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. They won't make that kind of splash this winter, but they'll still pursue players who they think fit with the team. It appears they've found one such player.

According to multiple reports from Tuesday afternoon, the Yankees will acquire center fielder Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers. The deal is not yet official, as the three teams involved still have to review medical information on the seven players changing places. There is no word on when the teams will make the trade official.

Though the trade has been billed as a three-way, it will be essentially two separate trades. In the first, the Yankees will send center field prospect Austin Jackson, Phil Coke and Ian Kennedy to the Tigers for Granderson. The Tigers will then trade Kennedy and Edwin Jackson to the Arizona Diamondbacks for starting pitcher Max Scherzer and left-handed pitching prospect Dan Schlereth. Again, the deal is not official, but this is what has been reported.

Earlier this week, rumors circled that the Tigers wanted Phil Hughes and Jackson for Granderson, but the Yankees balked. Talks resumed when the Diamondbacks got involved, wanting Edwin Jackson from the Tigers. The original rumor, which broke on Monday evening, contained the same players, plus lefty-reliever Mike Dunn going from the Yankees to the Tigers. As negotiations progressed on Tuesday, the Yankees removed Dunn from the deal.

The hardest part of the deal for the Yankees was trading Jackson, their second best position player prospect behind catcher Jesus Montero. After hitting .300 at AAA in 2009, Jackson could have made his Major League debut in 2010, though with Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner on the roster, chances are he would have started the season in AAA. He could now be an option to start in center field for the Tigers.

Granderson will probably start in center field for the Yankees. While Cabrera and Gardner are still on the roster, Granderson plays better defense than Cabrera and has a much better bat than both. There is a chance that Granderson or Cabrera could play left field, but that would reduce their offensive value. Bigger bats typically play the corner positions.

The Yankees hope that Granderson, who will be 29 in March, can recover from a down year in 2009. After two consecutive seasons posting an on-base percentage over .360, Granderson dropped to .327 in 2009, mostly due to a lower batting average, .249, after hitting .302 in 2007 and .280 in 2008. Part of the problem for Granderson was his batting average on balls in play, which fell to .275 in 2009. This was due at least in part to his hitting more fly balls than in years past. Ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls.

Though Granderson has generally hit well in his big league career, he has had trouble facing left-handed pitchers. In 685 career plate appearances against lefties, he's hit just .210 with a .270 on-base percentage. Against righties he has a career .292 batting average and .367 on-base percentage. He didn't fare as poorly against lefties in 2008, however, posting a .259 batting average and a .310 on-base percentage.

While this will be the Yankees' biggest move so far this winter, it will probably not be their last. They still plan to work out a contract with Andy Pettitte, who came into the week as the team's top priority but took a temporary backseat when the Granderson opportunity arose. General manager Brian Cashman has also indicated that he's interested in adding other pitchers to the team. Since Granderson plays center field, the Yankees could also pursue a left fielder.

The trade will not preclude the Yankees from re-signing free agent Johnny Damon. He could play left field and DH, affording manager Joe Girardi some lineup flexibility. With fly ball pitchers on the mound, Girardi could use an outfield of Cabrera, Granderson, and Nick Swisher, while using Damon as the DH. With ground ball pitchers on the mound, Damon would play left and be less of a defensive liability.

The 2010 roster is far from set, but the Yankees made a big start by trading for Granderson. He provides the team an upgrade in center field and can hit anywhere in the lineup. The Yankees can now move into other targets. With Granderson on board, though, they have more leverage. That can help them to continue building in an attempt to defend their World Series title.

Joe Pawlikowski is a writer for River Ave Blues. Read more from Joe and his team at RiverAveBlues.com.
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