Keep one, trade one: Granderson or Swisher?


Chances are the Yankees won’t make any changes to the outfield this off-season. Their payroll is already over $150 million, counting estimated arbitration raises, and they still have a few positions to fill. Why, then, would they mess with one of their stronger aspects? The Yankees featured the only outfield in which each member boasted a 4+ WAR. While that brings no guarantees for next year, it certainly makes the situation appear a bit stronger than, say, starting pitching. Why mess with what’s worked?

Let’s turn to a hypothetical, though. What if the Rangers somehow outbid the Yankees on Cliff Lee? The Yankees would then turn to the trade market for a starting pitcher. While prospects such as Jesus Montero will certainly top teams’ wish lists, we’ve often seen teams require major league ready talent in a trade. This is especially true for established teams. To use the mystery pitcher as a for-instance, if the Yankees inquired on Chris Carpenter the Cardinals might require an outfielder they can plug right into the lineup. That moves us to the title question:

If you had to trade either Nick Swisher or Curtis Granderson in order to acquire a starting pitcher, whom would you choose?

I like this comparison, because not only are Swisher and Granderson the same age, but they also came into the league in the same year. That means that their comparison charts on FanGraphs line up perfectly. Here’s the wOBA chart:

And the WAR chart:

These charts are another reason to like the comparison. While it appears that Swisher has come into his own as the better hitter, Granderson’s defense has allowed him to stay close to Swisher in terms of WAR. In fact, Granderson’s career WAR is a bit better than Swisher’s, mainly due to Granderson’s 2007 being far better than any year in Swisher’s career. But if you look at their WAR by nth best season, you can see that they’re pretty damn close:

Let’s examine this case step-by-step.

The case for dealing Swisher

(Kathy Willens/AP)

As a hitter, Swisher is the easy sell. He was known as a solid hitter with a good eye and decent power when he was in Oakland. Then he ruined his value by producing poorly in Chicago. With the Yankees he has done nothing but improve. His .375 wOBA in 2009 was the best mark of his career, and he topped that in 2010 with a .377 wOBA. Even more impressively, he accomplished the improvement with a more aggressive approach. If he can get his walk rate back over 10 percent in 2011 while maintaining the contact skill he displayed in 2010, he might be even more valuable.

This makes him valuable to other teams. The perception that he’s a better hitter than Granderson might mean he weighs more heavily in a trade. His defense has been the source of much criticism, but it’s mostly overblown. He makes a few boneheaded plays here and there, but for the most part he’s solid while roaming right field in Yankee Stadium. He is, however, prone to trouble on the road. Still, it’s easier to hide middling defense and focus on quality offense than the reverse.

The case against dealing Swisher

Trading Swisher leaves the Yankees with an outfield of Granderson and Brett Gardner. That’s some excellent defense right there, but it lacks the traditional power bat. Granderson helps compensate in that department, since he hits for more power than most center fielders — he ranked fifth in the majors, and two of the guys ahead of him did not play the majority of their innings in center. Still, it’s tough to imagine how they’ll replace Swisher in right, without any viable in-house options.

That might mean splurging on Jayson Werth. True, the Yanks could go for Carl Crawford and have an outfield defense for the ages. And perhaps the short porch would enhance Crawford’s power. But they’d have to shuffle things, perhaps putting Granderson in right because he has the best arm among them (and that’s not saying a ton). Werth and Crawford will probably require something around 75 to 80 percent of Cliff Lee’s average annual value, so if the Yankees were to acquire a pitcher in the mold of Chris Carpenter — high priced and near free agency — they might not be able to afford one of those two.

The case for dealing Granderson

(Mark Humphrey/AP)

While Swisher has shown improvement in his numbers during the last two years, Granderson has moved in the opposite direction. There’s a chance that the level at which he hit in 2010 is the level at which he’ll hit for the next few years. If that’s the case, the Yankees might want to trade him if they find an interested suitor. The problem, of course, is selling his skills to that mystery team. But if they can do that, they’ll still be set up to recreate the outfield.

With Granderson gone the Yankees can slide Gardner into center field. That opens up an opportunity to find a player for either of the corners, since Swisher could likely handle left field (but, because of middling defensive skills, is probably better in the more confined grounds of right field). Crawford is the obvious solution here, though the same caveat applies as above. If the Yankees trade Granderson and his $8.25 million salary, but take back $17 million, and then try to add $18 million for Crawford — well, they might not fit that under budget. Then again, we’ve seen the Yankees break budget in the past. Perhaps if it means acquiring a front end starter and rebuilding the outfield they’ll take a chance.

The case against dealing Granderson

We saw a much improved Granderson in the final month and a half of the season. After his mid-August tutorial with Kevin Long he hit .261/.356/.564. That’s a small sample and doesn’t tell us anything by itself. But combined with our knowledge that he changed things a bit, we can be a bit more confident that his 2011 will be better than his 2010. And if his 2011 resembles his 2008, the Yankees will have one of the most valuable center fielders in the league.

Remember, too, that the Yankees have a ton of fly ball guys on the staff. A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia can induce grounders, but they’re not near the top of the league. Phil Hughes is an extreme fly ball pitcher. Andy Pettitte is a fly ball pitcher at this point in his career. The Yankees can use some high quality outfield defense. Granderson fits that bill. Why trade him, when his offense could easily rebound and his defense remains well above average? Those skills can be invaluable to the Yankees.

My pick

Just so I’m not leaving the decision to everyone else while leaving myself out of it, I’ll go with my pick. I’d trade Swisher. I think he’s an easier sell at this point, and I think the Yankees can find an adequate replacement. Granderson is the riskier guy to keep, for sure. If he continues hitting along the lines of his 2009 and 2010 season numbers he’s not going to be as valuable as Swisher, defense or not. But I like what I see. Give me the center field defense and the power, with potential for more.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Wow, great article and a tough choice. They both bring different things to the table that add up to having roughly the same value.

    I don’t either are particularly easy to sell to another team – Granderson because of his downward trending stats and struggles against LHP, Swisher because of his FA status after 2012 and expectant big payday.

    Anyway, I think I’d rather trade Swisher, simply because power hitting corner OFs are easier to replace than power hitting center-fielders who also play great defense. I am a Granderson fan and I think he’ll have a big 2011, so this is kind of contingent on that. Swisher is the more consistent player but I think he’d be slightly easier to move and easier to replace.

    Luckily things should work out that we get to keep both :)

  2. AJ says:

    I’ll take Grandy’s speed, defense and power combo. And I like the fact of having a strong Center fielder. Right fielders with power are easier to find. Grandy has potential to be a great 5 tool player again. And Joe is so right, after the year Swisher just had we’d get a high return.

  3. Reggie C. says:

    I think Granderson’s athleticism gives him the edge. Unlike Crawford, Granderson’s power threat is much more pronounced in games and so even with aging and loss of speed Granderson’s offensive game won’t drastically diminish. Swisher’s put together a pair of quality offensive seasons, but i can see his defense deteriorate at a much faster clip than Granderson.

    What would have Swisher’s 2010 season have looked like if the BB rate returned to 10%? Are we really talking about a noticeable jump in offensive performance?

  4. eckss says:

    Wait, so Chris Carpenter is the mystery pitcher? Has it even been revealed yet? Memory fail, haha.

    Oh and, indeed, a tough choice. The outfield defense argument is what sells me on keeping Granderson, though.

  5. Mike HC says:

    Excellent article idea and article. I would stick with Granderson because he plays a very good centerfield, better on the basepaths, and is just a faster and more athletic player in general. Plus, he could out hit Swisher in any given year, although it seems Swisher is a slightly better hitter than him at this point.

  6. Plank says:

    I would try to trade Swisher, Gardner, Betances, and one of Brackman or Romine for Upton. Is it crazy to think that would work?

    Then the Yankees could sign Crawford or Werth. The outfield would then be Granderson, Upton, Crawford (or Werth.)

    • Jobu says:

      But the premise of the post was that you were trading swisher or Granderson for a pitcher. If you trade Granderson for a pitcher and that package for Upton then you have Upton and ????? in the outfield.

      • Plank says:

        I was proposing another trade involving outfielders in a post about trading outfielders.

        • DoubleOOXioti says:

          I like the proposal for Upton. But what about considering a package trade with Swisher in it, (that wouldn’t include Banuelos,Bentances or Montero) for Chris Carpenter and Cody Rasmus

          • Plank says:

            I think the Cards would have to throw in more than just Rasmus and Carpenter to get the Great Nick Swisher. I think they have a pretty good first-baseman who could DH for us.

    • You didn’t give up enough, not to mention Swisher would be unattractive to a team like the D-Backs because of how much he’s owed and his FA status after next year.

      Also, I’m not sure that even makes sense for the Yankees. They’re out a bunch of prospects and still have to turn around and pay Crawford or Werth to a huge deal? If they were going to trade for Upton I would think it would specifically be to avoid having to sign one of those guys.

      • Plank says:

        I feel like getting younger and better is the only thing you can’t throw money at. When a unique opportunity to acquire a player who makes you younger and better comes along, you have to pounce on it and use the money advantage to plug the holes it creates.

        The Yanks are giving up over 8 WAR from last season in 2 All-star type players plus two decent prospects. Only one of the 4 is making big money. That still isn’t enough?

        • No, it’s not enough and that’s even granting you a trade Towers would be insane to make, he could get a LOT more for a player of Upton’s caliber. This is how I look at it though:

          Yankees give up: 2 relatively young 4+ WAR outfielders, one who makes a lot, the other who doesn’t.. along with at least two high-upside prospects

          Yankess get: 2 4+ WAR outfielders, one insanely expensive and one cost controlled

          Where is the net gain that makes it worth giving up prospects? Crawford is 29, Werth is 31 so you didn’t get that much younger, either. Makes no sense to me.

          • Plank says:

            You get younger because Upton is 23 and is signed below market for 5 more years. Gardner will be 28 next year and I’m guessing won’t even be in the league when Upton’s contract is running out in 2015 and he is putting up his career years.

            I also think that Swisher and Gardner both put up the best seasons of their careers so trading high would be advantageous.

  7. Steve H says:

    I think there’s no “right” answer and both players provide similar value in different ways. I would just trade the one that can get you more in return.

  8. Johnny O says:

    Swish and The Jesus for Carpenter and Rasmus….who says no? I don’t necessarily love that deal for the Yanks mainly because Carpenter’s been hurt but I think it’s pretty freakin even. Especially if we miss out on Lee.

  9. Kyle says:

    Selling high on Swisher seems to be the better choice here, however, I am curious what kind of interest Gardner fetches.

  10. yankthemike says:

    you make convincing cases for either, but If I had to let one of them go i’d have to say Granderson. His trends aside from “the august cure” are all going down. I don’t think that Granderson’s D makes up for his hitting if he reverts to what he has been except for the last couple of months of the season. If he were to be traded you’d have Gardner in CF ( which is where I think he should play anyway) and my personal preference would be Werth over Crawford.

  11. j_Yankees says:

    If you throw Brett Gardner into the mix it becomes a even tougher. Considering his contract situation, his age and his coming off a 5+ fWAR season, he’d probably bring the most in return right now. Money wise it’s a huge leap up if the replacement is Carl Crawford. But under the hypothetical game we’re playing the Yankees aren’t signing Cliff Lee, so they have money to play with.

    As for Swisher vs Granderson. Give me Granderson. As others have noted, speed, power, defense. Plus he is signed 2 years longer than Swisher is (2013 being a club option).

    • If you throw Brett Gardner into the mix it becomes a even tougher. Considering his contract situation, his age and his coming off a 5+ fWAR season, he’d probably bring the most in return right now.

      Considering that he’s still the least proven and least established of the three, and he’s probably not capable of a .400 SLG, I’d strongly disagree with that. All three players have a good amount of trade value; Gardner probably has the least of the three, though. He’s a solid, everyday player, but he doesn’t have star potential the way Granderson and Swisher do.

      • Steve H says:

        I think there are GM’s across baseball who would believe in Gardner and would love to have him at his contract. If 30 teams were bidding on the three I think Gardner would have the 3rd most value overall, but I think to a group of 8-10 teams Gardner would be the most coveted of the 3. For instance, in a package for Upton, wouldn’t the D-Backs (if Towers is a Gardner believer) rather have Gardner than two older, more expensive (if likely better) players?

      • j_Yankees says:

        Probably is bit strong. I should have said might or could.

  12. Monteroisdinero says:

    Don’t resign Jeter for $18M. Use the money for Crawford and have him play left, Grandy in center, Gardy in right. Better/best defense immediately. Have Swisher DH everyday. Posada catches 30-40 games and backs up everywhere and is #1 pinch hit option for Nunez in late innings. We will be faster, younger, much better defensively and cheap at catcher, short and right field.

    I wouldn’t care if Gardy/Grandy were interchangeable in center and right.

    So-I wouldn’t trade either of them and make sure we get Lee-whatever it take$$$

    • Plank says:

      Why do you assume Nunez would be the replacement if Jeter didn’t sign? It would be someone like Uribe (I know he just signed.) Someone with similar production to Jeter for a fraction of the price.

    • Don’t resign Jeter for $18M. Use the money for Crawford and have him play left, Grandy in center, Gardy in right. Better/best defense immediately. Have Swisher DH everyday. Posada catches 30-40 games and backs up everywhere and is #1 pinch hit option for Nunez in late innings. We will be faster, younger, much better defensively and cheap at catcher, short and right field.

      I wouldn’t care if Gardy/Grandy were interchangeable in center and right.

      So-I wouldn’t trade either of them and make sure we get Lee-whatever it take$$$

      Not every post is a space for you to blather on about your Eduardo Nuñez man-love, Larry. We’re not talking about Jeter or Nuñez here. Don’t turn into “that guy”, the guy who ends up getting banned because he can’t follow fairly simple and non-draconian commenting guidelines. Come on, bro, you’re better than this.

    • bexarama says:

      Posada… backs up everywhere

      (tries to imagine Posada playing CF in an emergency, lulz happen)

      You also seem to think Swisher is horrible out there in the OF… I don’t get it. And uh, since you apparently saw my 3:15 AM post judging by the Open Thread, you know how I feel about the Posada thing. It’s a waste to have someone who can hit like him rotting on the bench.

      And faster and younger doesn’t necessarily mean better.

      • Steve H says:

        Swisher made two bad plays in the OF in one week in 2009 and he has now been branded by many as a horrible fielder.

      • Monteroisdinero says:

        Come on Bex, I said something very nice about you in the off topic. I also didn’t say Swish was horrible in the OF or that Posada sucks. Just making a rational argument here.

        • I’m not sure that a strategy that calls for the Yankees to refuse to spend 18M per annum on an aging but still solidly good SS (while we have no real internal replacement) but instead spend 18M per annum on an outfielder when we already have 3 good outfielders, thus moving one of those incumbent OFs to the already occupied DH and moving the fulltime DH (making 13M) to a bench role and playing a bench player (Nuñez) in a starting capacity is something that I’d call “a rational argument”.

        • bexarama says:

          I thought you were being sarcastic in your niceness, honestly. Sorry if you weren’t! :(

          Your argument was to sit Posada because you don’t like paying him so you don’t want to play him. I don’t get that at all. It’s not like his contract is really hurting the organization. He is still a very useful player with the bat. We’re gonna pay him anyway – why not get the use out of him that you can?

          • Monteroisdinero says:

            And I think 30-40 games and a super sub at age 40 is the perfect use for him. Montero may struggle, people get injured etc. I didn’t say I don’t like paying him-we have to pay him. I wish he was cheaper but he isn’t. I have seen Montero. I know things. Jesus is coming. :-)

            • JAG says:

              Well, but I’m not sure a guy who can only even play 2 positions at a below-average level (C and 1B) counts as a super sub. I’d rather just see everyone spread out and only have 7 fielders than see Posada try to play shortstop or second.

  13. JerseyDutch says:

    Tough choice but I’d trade Granderson. He’s probably the better player overall but Swisher seems to be aging better.

  14. ZZ says:

    Where is this adequate replacement for Swisher coming from?

    • Steve H says:

      I think the only way one of these guys gets traded is if they miss out on Lee. Trade for a P then sign Crawford or Werth.

      • ZZ says:

        That’s what I figured and why it doesn’t make any sense to say Swisher is easier to replace or seperate their replacement options.
        It is literally the same exact thing. You trade Swisher or Granderson and you target the same exact players.

        Swisher is actually more difficult to replace because he was the more productive player last year.

        So you trade Swisher get the same replacement you would if you had traded Granderson and you have to hope Granderson rebounds in a major way offensively.

        You trade Granderson get the replacement and just hope Swisher does not tail off to what Granderson produced last year.

        Swisher is the more difficult player to replace.

  15. CBean says:

    My head says that Swish is the better one to give up but I probably will cry a little if this happens. Let’s just go with the option where we get Lee and keep Granderson and Swisher. That one’s my favorite.

    • bexarama says:

      All of this. Though I’m honestly not sure if I’d want to give up Swisher… depends what the difference is for what they’d give you between Swisher and Granderson. It’d have to be significantly better for me to give up Swisher, I think. :/

      • CBean says:

        Yes, I mean, I’d like to think we aren’t doing this unless we’re getting something pretty damned awesome for it.

        • bexarama says:

          Yeah, ZZ actually just said it better than I could up above.

          So you trade Swisher get the same replacement you would if you had traded Granderson and you have to hope Granderson rebounds in a major way offensively.

          You trade Granderson get the replacement and just hope Swisher does not tail off to what Granderson produced last year.

          Swisher is the more difficult player to replace.

          I don’t think Granderson needs to rebound in a major way but unless we would get, like, Felix for Swisher, and some relievers for Granderson, I think I’d keep Swisher.

  16. vin says:

    I’d like to cast my vote for neither.

    Signing Lee and keeping the OF together is clearly the best alternative.

    If the reports are true about what the Yanks are willing to offer Cliff, then there’s no way he goes anywhere but the Bronx.

    The way I see it:
    Mo re-signing – 99.8%
    Jeter re-signing – 99.4%
    Lee signing – 98%
    Pettitte re-signing – 90%

    I think if Andy does decide to hang ‘em up, then we may see Cashman try to get a salary dump pitcher (like Javy last year). Otherwise the rotation will have the 3 lefties plus Hughes and AJ.

  17. vinny-b says:


    you don’t trade the strength of your team.

  18. Brett says:

    Don’t care if its not based on playing but I just love Swisher’s personality too much to get rid of him. He’s just plain out fun. And for clubhouse stuff and what he means to fans (atleast me) I’d prefer not to trade him unless its for something nuts.

    • vinny-b says:

      they are both VERY high character guys. Young. And very good players. Which is why i wouldn’t trade either one.

    • Plank says:

      “I’d prefer not to trade him unless its for something nuts.”

      Like Wilson Betemit and Jonnhy Nunez?

    • Sterling Archer says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Grandy is a great guy but you can tell Swish adds a great element to the clubhouse. Fans love him, teammates love him, Ozzie hates him. It’s refreshing to watch players who actually look like they’re enjoying themselves.

  19. Pounder says:

    Pitching should come back in any trade this winter.If that means Swish or Grandy or Gardner,go for it if the return is a top flight arm.You can put a ham sandwich out there and win if your pitching is superior.

  20. Matthew G. says:

    Trade Swish. If they’re really more or less a push on the field, keep the classy guy (Granderson) and trade the irritating goofball (Swisher).

  21. Steve says:

    TRADE SWISHER!!!!! Get Carl Crawford in LF, Gardner in CF, and Granderson in RF. Best outfield in baseball

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.