Fitting Curtis Granderson into an unnecessarily crowded 2014 outfield

The future needs to be now behind the plate
Game 118: Do I hear three?
(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Thanks to two fluke long-ish term hit-by-pitch injuries, Curtis Granderson‘s contract year has been a disaster. Sure, he’s back on the field now with less than two months to play, but that’s not much time for him to showcase himself to prospective employers. If he stinks, is it because of the injuries? If he’s great, is it because he’s well-rested at a time when other players are grinding and dealing with the fatigue of 100+ games already played? It’s a tough spot.

The Yankees, of course, are one of those prospective employers. They know him better than anyone right now. They know his work ethic, his personality, his medical information, pretty much everything you’d want to know about a player before paying them many millions of dollars. They also know their lineup is woefully short on power and figures to remain that way next season even if Robinson Cano re-signs and Mark Teixeira comes back perfectly healthy. Even with all the strikeouts, there’s a place for Granderson in the team’s 2014 lineup.

That said, the Bombers already have four veteran outfielders under contract for next season: Brett Gardner (he qualifies as a veteran by now, right?), Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, and Alfonso Soriano. There’s also the currently injured Zoilo Almonte, who did enough during his month-long cameo to at least earn a long look in Spring Training. Melky Mesa will also be out of minor league options next year, though he hasn’t exactly forced his way into the team’s long-term picture this season.

That’s a lot of bodies for a few spots, but it really isn’t. Soriano can hide as the DH next year — his right-handed power makes him useful and worth keeping around at this point — and Almonte can go back to Triple-A Scranton as a depth piece. Vernon Wells has already been marginalized this year, starting just four of the team’s last eleven and 24 of their last 43 games. That’s what happens when you’re a sub-replacement level hitter for about three months. The Yankees owe Wells $2.4M in real dollars next year, but thanks to some fancy accounting he has zero impact on the luxury tax. Being “free” might be enough to save his job.

As Matt wrote over the weekend, Granderson is a prime candidate to receive a qualifying offer after the season. They’re expected to be worth $14M this winter, which would be a pay cut from his current $15M salary. If Granderson accepts, great. They’ll make room for his power in the lineup. If he declines, the Yankees will get a supplement first round pick if he signs elsewhere. As it stands right now, making Curtis the qualifying offer is a no-brainer. I know if I was a fan of another team, Granderson would definitely someone I would be focusing on as a potential “buy low” candidate over the winter thanks to the injuries. A qualifying offer would be a no-lose situation for New York.

The question now is how expendable do the Yankees consider Granderson? Do they consider Soriano-Gardner-Ichiro with Wells and maybe Almonte on the bench to be a viable outfield? They shouldn’t, but they might. The team has made some … questionable, roster choices over the last 18 months or so. Dumping Granderson would free up a lot of space under that all-important $189M luxury tax limit, and Hal Steinbrenner has made it very, very clear that getting under the threshold is important to him. Could it be so important they don’t even risk a qualifying offer? That I doubt, at worst they’d be able to trade Granderson and his $14M before next season. We can’t know that for sure, however.

Even though the Yankees have a bunch of warm bodies slated for the outfield next year, only one of those guys (Gardner) is a legitimate above-average player. Everyone else is above-average name value with meh on-field value. If he’s willing to take a one-year pillow contract to rebuild value, Granderson would fit right into their left field picture and the middle of the lineup. If he wants a multi-year deal — it’s very possible he gets offered one, teams have a lot of money to spend but not many places to spend it these days — then chances are he’ll be suiting up elsewhere. That would be a shame, because the Yankees could use his bat next season even though they already have a bunch of warm outfield bodies under contract.

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The future needs to be now behind the plate
Game 118: Do I hear three?
  • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

    I know he’s free next year, but Wells has gotta go.

    You’ve seen all you need to; he’s not hurt. $0 hit is great and all, but if the crowded OF is the reason you let Grandy walk (and for the sake of keeping Wells), that’s just pathetic.

    • Deathstroke Heathcott

      If Wells wants to even marginally up his odds of making next year’s teams, he should try to learn how to really play 1B at least. With the limited roster we’re gonna have next year, versatility could go a long way.

    • garich

      Get rid of Gardner & Ichrio maybe a small upgrade?

      Granderson
      Soriano

      Maybe make
      Shin-Soo Choo , or Carlos Beltran, or Hunter Pence or Jacoby Ellsbury an offer. Can cycle DH.

      Get a full time catcher or try to pull off a trade for one.
      Make offer to
      Brian McCann

      Gonna need a 3B
      Michael Young ?
      Mark Reynolds ?

      What about 2b?
      Think they should have traded Cano along with Hughes and Joba but that shipped sailed they be fools to bring back Hughes.

      Jeter dunno what’s gonna happed.
      Tex Home run or bust he ain’t going no place.

      Tell CC to put on 50lbs
      Andy thank you but see ya
      Kud another one year………another guy they should have traded but that ship sailed.
      Pinhead will he be ready?

    • Colin

      I think granderson will hit a whole bunch of HRs for yrs.All these gardner haters,the guys defense is amazing.the guy covers center, half of left and half of right

  • Robert

    Ichiro,Wells,Soriano,Granderson,and Gardner in 2014.

    Elsberry,Choo,Almonte,Mesa and Healthcott in 2014.

    Which group hits more HR’s ,Steals more Bases, and hits for higher average,but most of all stays healthier than the other group.

    • Nick

      I’m not sure what you’re point is… There’s literally no viable scenario where group B would ever be on the same team at the same time.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Option B happens…..in videogame land.

    • Mister D

      Trout, Stanton, Heyward, Mason and Gerald Williams

      My OF wins big time.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        What’s Heyward doing there? My boy Bryce is 3 years younger and a lot better offensively.

      • http://www.penuel-law.com/ Cuso

        I like how you slipped “Ice” in there.

    • JGYank

      You expect us to sign two expensive free agents while we are lowering payroll and we already need to spend big just to keep Cano? And you expect three guys from the farm to suddenly step up out of nowhere and contribute before they are ready? And Mesa really isn’t even a prospect. And to just magically get rid of Ichiro, Wells, and Soriano? Ellsbury is injury prone and so is Heathcott while Almonte is on the DL right now. I hate Wells, Ichiro, and Soriano but come on. That’s extremely unrealistic and if Ellsbury or Choo went down we would be screwed.

  • Eddard

    I would dump Wells. Only offer Granderson the QO. If he doesn’t take it then he’s gone and A-Rod becomes the new players association representative.

    • vicki

      gold.

  • Cool Lester Smooth

    Being free also makes Wells easier to cut.

  • trr

    I think they’ll start the season with Wells. Not so sure they’ll finish it with him.

  • Cool Lester Smooth

    My ideal outfield lineup next season would be Granderson, Gardner, Soriano with Ichiro as the 4th OF taking at bats from Soriano when he can.

    • vicki

      i get you. but it’d be a bit of a waste of ichi’s (staggering, of late) reverse platoon splits.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        Maybe have Sori DH and Ichiro play RF against lefties.

  • JGNYC

    This looks like a lineup:

    Gardner
    Ichiro
    Cano
    Arod
    Granderson
    Soriano
    Overbay
    Nunez
    Romine

    • garich

      This

      Jeter SS / DH
      Soriano LF / DH
      Cano 2B
      Shin-Soo Choo , or Carlos Beltran, or Hunter Pence or Jacoby Ellsbury
      Brian McCann C
      Tex 1b
      Granderson CF
      Michael Young 3b 1b DH

      • NYPLATOONS

        Shin-Soo-Choo Wrc+ 142

        Beltran Wrc+ 140

        Hunter Pence Wrc+ 120

        Ellsbury wrc+ 116

        M young wrc+ 103

        McCann wrc+ 142

        Soriano wrc+ 116

        No doubt the Yankees need to upgrade I for one can’t stand Gardner and the Yankees haven’t had a catcher since Posada and with Sanchez a year or two away McCann might be a good fit. I actually like the guys listed above and I actually like all of them. Yankees can’t keep throwing out quick fixes. I say WTF with Arod gone, Mo, Andy, Kud, Hughes there is NO reason why the Yankees can’t grab three of these guys NONE!

  • The Real Greg

    And he is still hating on Ichiro, who is having a very nice year.

    • The Real Greg

      2.4 WAR which is his best since 2010

    • Nuke Guy (Knoxvillain)

      He’s a pretty streaky player. He doesn’t have a great bat but he does a decent job. People forget that he isn’t going to hit .330 with 220 hits every year. He’s old and almost done.

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        He also isn’t going to hit .290, walk or hit for an even below average amount of power.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      He’s produced an 83 wRC+ (.297 wOBA) this year. The average SS has a 85 wRC+ (.296 wOBA).

      Yeah, I can’t imagine why Mike wouldn’t be happy about having a below average offensive SS as the Yankees starting RF.

      • Deathstroke Heathcott

        Defense and baserunning exist. Even the most conservative estimate of his effect of his defense makes him still not a terrible starting outfielder.

        • Cool Lester Smooth

          21 right fielders currently qualify for the batting title. Of those 21, Ichiro is the worst offensively with a 83 wRC+. The league average wRC+ in right field is 104. The next worst qualified right fielder, Drew Stubbs, has a wRC+ of 88.

          Ichiro’s baserunning and defense make him an acceptable 4th outfielder, rather than Vernon Wells. They do not, however, make him an acceptable starting RF on a team with any pretense of competing for a playoff spot.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    QO’s a no-brainer.

    Suppose they were to entertain something beyond that, let’s pretend. What’s an appropriate, even player-friendly, acceptable multi-year offer for Curtis?

    • Oy

      3/45 with 2mm bonuses for All Star appearances, with a club option for year 4 + a 5mm buyout or a vesting option based on PA?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Yeah. That sounds about right. I’m honestly on the fence on that. I’m not sure I’d want to do more than 2/30 myself.

    • Nuke Guy (Knoxvillain)

      I guess it depends on what other teams offer him. If I was the Yankees I’d offer him a 4/60 with a 5th year option for 12 million or a 3 million dollar buy out. I think that works for both sides.

  • NYYROC

    Don’t see Sori getting much DH time, what with Jeter and ARod (if he plays).

  • Oy

    You have to keep the abysmal OF FA crop of 2015 in mind. The best available options in 2015 are Aoki and Gardner. I kid you not. Yankees will have to fill in 3 outfield spots after 2014 and that is not the right FA class for it. In my opinion, getting a quality OF with team control after 2015 is a must. I’m actually leaning towards signing Ellsbury over McCann (if Yanks will only go after one, both would be amazing fits).

  • Greg

    of course we make him a QO. If he accepts, then we have 5 outfielders, and if not, we get an extra pick.

  • Dan2

    Unless you think that Jeter will not be on the team next year, you cannot simply say put an OF in as a DH. In all liklihood, Jeter will DH in 70-80% of 2014 games and the spot will be needed for other oldies from time to time.
    Wells was a noble attempt that failed. Even if we pay him $0 next year, that is exactly what he is worth. He can not take an inning or an at bat from Almonte, Mesa, or any other prospect we are lucky enough to get our hands on.
    Granderson and Soriano are truly mirror images of each other.very low average hitters, mediocre defense, speed they refuse to use, an abundance of strikeouts, but above average homeruns. We certainly don’t need both and hopefully won’t have both. I would prefer an upgrade to an OF with more than one tool.
    I would make the qualifier tom Granderson because he can zero in on right field. As far as a long term offer, anything over 3 years $39m is not necessary.There will be no one over that offer, and if so, take the pick and run.

  • Adam

    The team next year SHOULD be:

    Gardner CF
    Jeter DH
    Cano 2B
    A-Rod 3B
    Tex 1B
    Soriano/Ichiro platoon RF
    Granderson LF
    A real catcher
    A real starting shortstop/third baseman/second baseman

    DH alternates regularly between Jeter, A-Rod and Soriano.

    Bench:
    Wells
    Romine
    Utility infielder/outfielder (Please not Jayson Nix)
    Overbay

    Rotation:
    Kuroda
    CC
    Nova
    Phelps/Pineda (if healthy)
    Another lefty

    Bullpen:
    Robertson (Closer)
    Kelley
    Logan
    Another lefty (Nuno?)
    Betances
    Claiborne
    Warren

    • NYPLATOONS

      Gardner is not a lead off hitter period!

      • Cool Lester Smooth

        LOUD NOISES!

        Seriously, what don’t you like about Gardner at the top of the lineup? Is that he has a great OBP and has decent pop for a CF? Or is it the fact that he’s always a threat to steal and thus can be a disruptive presence on the other team’s defense?

  • Dan

    My one concern with resigning Grandy to a one year deal is that the move leaves us with NO outfielders for 2015 (and there are basically no good outfielders who will be free agents that offseason)

  • RetroRob

    Of course a QO. He could hit .200 with 5 HRs the rest of the way. He gets a QO.

    Ichiro, despite all the talk, has not been the Yankees problem this year. Not even close.

    • Cool Lester Smooth

      I think the fact that he was expected to be the starting RF this year is pretty emblematic of the Yankees’ problems, though.