By most accounts, Johnny Damon performed poorly in left field last season. A net positive in 2008, his defense seemingly fell off a cliff in 2009, as he went from a 6.7 UZR over 659.1 innings to a -9.2 UZR in 1,117.2 innings. I looked all over for evidence that UZR was wrong, but didn’t find much. Even the scouting view, courtesy of Keith Law, doesn’t favor Damon. He sees things differently, though. Speaking to Tyler Kepner of the Times, Damon thinks his defense helped the club. “I think early on last season my defense was a little bit erratic, but once I figured out the ballpark and figured a few things out, I got better and I actually was a positive for us.” While his defense probably got better as the season went along, I don’t think it was ever a positive. Then again, what else is the guy going to say?
There are still some minor details left to hammer out, but the Yanks, D-Backs, and Tigers have all agreed on the framework of a three-team trade that will send Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, Edwin Jackson to the desert, and various prospects to MoTown. From the Yanks perspective, it’s basically a swap of Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Coke for Granderson, the rest is just details.
As always, Keith Law checks in with his take at the four-letter. It’s subscriber only, but I’ll quote the Yankee-relevant parts:
The Yankees also come out ahead simply because they haven’t given up much of value, and in exchange they get an above-average everyday centerfielder. Curtis Granderson is a good defensive centerfielder who hits right-handers well, is a plus runner and gets unanimous raves for his personality. In two of the last three years, however, he hasn’t cracked a .500 OPS against left-handed pitchers and his pitch recognition problems against southpaws look like they’ll be very hard to correct, meaning that the Yankees need to consider a right-handed-hitting centerfielder to caddy for him against at least good left-handed starters. That (hypothetical) two-headed monster would be among the better centerfield solutions in the American League. It’s good they got that player for Jackson, who right now projects as more of an average everyday centerfielder; Coke, a middle reliever who had lost Joe Girardi‘s trust anyway; and Ian Kennedy, who at the very least wasn’t going to crack the Yankees’ rotation again.
Should be noted: Granderson is due $25.75 million over the next three years, including the 2013 buyout.
As a prospect guy, it’s tough to see Jackson and Kennedy go, but it’s a move the Yanks really couldn’t pass up. Jackson isn’t a finished product, and the Yanks essentially swapped him for a guy that represents his best case scenario in terms of value. It would have been real nice to have Kennedy around for depth next year, but that’s the cost of doing business. Coke? Easily replaceable.
By no means is Granderson perfect. He certainly has his flaws, especially against lefties, but he’s a monumental upgrade over the Yanks’ incumbent centerfield tandem. This shouldn’t preclude the Yanks from seeking out a leftfielder, because much of Granderson’s value stems from his production at a premium position. Here’s what Joe wrote about the move at YES Network.
Anyway, here’s your open thread for the night. The Isles are in action, and The Quest For 1-81 continues in Chicago. Anything goes, so have at it.
Just a few media hits for the afternoon: Via a release at their media center, ESPN announced a few minutes ago that Peter Gammons will be departing the network after the Winter Meetings are over. Gammons has not yet announced his next move, but Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president for production, says Peter wants “new challenges and a less demanding schedule.” In local media news, Jack Curry has taken a buyout offer from The New York Times and will be leaving the Grey Lady shortly. The Sports Section of The Times will seem a little less complete without him.
Update 5:58 p.m.: The Associated Press is now reporting that Gammons will be joining the MLB Network with an official announcement coming perhaps as early as tomorrow. This move seemed nearly inevitable when Gammons announced his decision to leave ESPN. Say what you will about Gammons’ biases, but this is a huge move for the one-year-old MLB Network. They get a bona fide giant in the field and steal one of ESPN’s most senior reporters. I wonder how much it’s going to cost them.
Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees (among others) will meet with Casey Close, agent for free agent pitcher Ben Sheets. I’m assuming the meeting will take place in Indy at some point. Close also represents Derek Jeter, so surely he’s familiar with Brian Cashman & Co.
Sheets, meanwhile, represents a tremendous buy low candidate. He’s coming off non-ligament elbow surgery, and has had over 14 months to recover from his various non-arm maladies. Assuming he signs for a short deal (one year plus an option would be ideal) at reasonable dollars, then Sheets provides (dare I say) ridiculous upside without much risk. For what it’s worth, Keith Law rated Sheets the 17th best free agent on the market, saying there’s “not much downside with the upside of a No. 2 starter who might give you 160-180 innings.”
Update (3:48pm): The White Sox also have “have emerged as a serious contender” for Matsui, according to Mark Feinsand. Kenny Williams apparently has an infinite amount of money at his disposal, because he’s added about $120M worth of obligations within the last six months (Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, today’s Mark Teahen extension).
10:46am: Via Mike DiGiovanna, the Angels have internally discussed a pursuit of Hideki Matsui. “He’s a person we’ve talked about,” Angels’ GM Tony Reagins said. “But we have a lot of scenarios we can attack, whether through trade or free agency.” It’s likely that Matsui is just a fallback option given his inability to the play the field, because The Greatest Manager Who Ever Lived likes to rotate four players between the DH and the outfield regularly.
Meanwhile, Ken Davidoff reports that Godzilla began a two-week mini-camp yesterday, and is working out in the outfield. Obviously, he’s trying to boost his free agent stock.
The rumor started late last night and developed throughout the day. Now it’s close to official: the Yankees have agreed to acquire centerfielder Curtis Granderson from the Tigers in a three team trade. Here’s the breakdown of who will get what:
To Yankees: CF Curtis Granderson
To Tigers: LHP Phil Coke, CF Austin Jackson, RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Dan Schlereth
Joel Sherman says that removing lefty reliever Mike Dunn was a key for the Yankees, who now have some leverage to use against free agent Johnny Damon. Sherman adds that the trade may not be finalized today because “minor details, mainly medicals, take time, must be worked thru.”
In Granderson, the Yankees will get a 28-year-old centerfielder coming off a 30 homerun, 20 steal season. However, he can’t hit lefthanded pitching at all (.210-.270-.344), and his once superb defense is now just slightly above average. The Yanks also pick up some major cost certainty, as Granderson is signed through 2012 for a total of $25.75M, plus there’s an option for 2013. He’s also familiar with Derek Jeter, having played with him during the WBC.
To get Granderson, the Bombers gave up their top prospect coming into 2009 in Austin Jackson, who hit .300-.354-.405 in Triple-A this year. Ian Kennedy’s last act as a Yankee will be pitching a scoreless 8th inning in a meaningless late season game against the Angels, while Phil Coke will be remembered as the guy that gave up two homers in one World Series inning. The move makes a dent in the Yanks’ pitching depth, however the Yanks can make up for some it with the player they take first overall in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.
Dave Cameron at FanGraphs calls the deal “almost too good to be true” for the Yanks.