In a somewhat surprising piece of news, Ken Rosenthal has announced that the Blue Jays and outfielder Curtis Granderson are getting ready to sign a one-year deal for Granderson’s services to provide outfield help for the Blue Jays.
Free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson in agreement with #BlueJays on one-year, $5M contract, sources tell The Athletic. Deal also includes incentives and is pending a physical.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 16, 2018
In 14 big league seasons (including just nine games in his rookie campaign in 2004), Granderson has put together a .252/.239/.472 slash line with 319 major league home runs in 1796 games. Granderson, a three-time All-Star had his best seasons in 2007 with the Tigers and 2011 with the Yankees, posting OPSs of over .900 in each of those years.
A right-handed hitting outfielder who was once a center fielder is now more of a corner guy with some power and the ability to get on base with walks despite his age (he’ll be in his Age-37 season in 2018). A lefthanded batter, Granderson hits righties well, and had a solid .214/.337/.470 slash line in 410 plate appearances against righties in 2017, hitting 21 of his 26 home runs and 21 of his 24 doubles against them. Like Ezequiel Carrera, we will not want Granderson to face left-handed pitching if it is avoidable.
Granderson split 2017 between the Mets and the Dodgers, hitting .212/.323/.452 with 26 home runs over 147 games and, despite seeing his BABIP and average drop in consecutive year from 2015 to 2017, has a high enough walk rate (usually between 11% and 13%) to get on base enough to provide value in addition to his power. Last year, Granderson provided 2.1 WAR despite declining defense but still had above average run production despite a .228 BABIP.
Granderson ranked 203rd in the major leagues in average exit velocity in 2017 (at 87.5 mph) and that held fairly steady from 2016 at 87.6 mph following a small decline from 2015 at 89.4 (when he ranked 123rd in the league).
Clearly, Granderson is a declining former star but will he give the Blue Jays more than one of their rising stars at a corner outfield position? This move probably pushes two or all three of Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford and Dalton Pompey down to Triple-A with Steve Pearce, Granderson, Carrera, and Pillar likely due to fill out the first four outfield spots (and it’s unsure that the Jays would carry a fifth outfielder). Also adding to the depth chart are Dwight Smith Jr. (on the 40-man roster), Roemon Fields and Jonathan Davis, the latter two of whom had excellent seasons in 2017.
The upside of this deal is that it’s for only $5 million and, if he can reproduce last year’s production, Granderson can offer an improvement offensively over Jose Bautista. Even if he struggles through the year and the Jays want to give one of their younger players more development time, that would be possible too without having to waste more money than this sitting on the bench. That said, many Blue Jays fans were hoping for a bigger splash on the free agent market, particularly for a corner outfielder and it’s possible that this type of move (marginal improvements for marginal money) may be indicative of what’s to come for the rest of the offseason.
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