Closing the Book on Curtis Granderson: Reviewing the Trade Four Years Later

Oct 16, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson in the dugout before game three of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Curtis Granderson signed a five year, $30 million extension with the Detroit Tigers in February of 2009. He was going to be one of the cornerstones (along with Justin Verlander and the recently acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis) of a Tigers team that was going to contend in the American League for years to come.

Except none of that happened.

Granderson would be traded to the New York Yankees only ten months after his extension was singed  in a three-team deal that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks (who received pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Tigers). The Tigers came up just short of the playoffs – losing to the Minnesota Twins in a Game 163 that went into extra innings – but they had to part ways with one of their best (and most popular) players in order to reduce payroll and boost the team’s depth chart with young, cheap talent. It was a salary dump plain and simple.

Except it wasn’t.

Both Austin Jackson (who had yet to make his big league debut) and Max Scherzer (who came to the Tigers off his full year of experience, a year with a 4.12 ERA) were able to hit the ground running, and proved right away to be just as valuable as the pair the Tigers jettisoned at only a fraction of the price. The Tigers took a small step back in 2010, finishing in third place, but the trade already looked like a good one, with a new young core in place.

Fast forward to the present day. Granderson’s original contract extension has just expired, and we can finally close the books on What Could Have Been. Many (most?) Tigers fans panicked when the trade was announced, but it turns out that Dave Dombrowski made a very shrewd move.

Here’s how the three teams have fared in the four years since The Trade:

Detroit Tigers: three division titles, three playoff appearances (1 World Series, 2 LCS)

New York Yankees: two division titles, three playoff appearances (2 LCS, 1 LDS)

Arizona Diamondbacks: 321 one division title, one playoff appearance (LDS)

Players involved in The Trade only account for a small portion of each team’s results, but I thought it was interesting to look at the overall team success rates. The Yankees have the most overall wins, but the Tigers have been as successful (if not more so) if we’re also talking about the playoffs.

And now a more specific look at the players involved in the trade, from the Tigers’ perspective:

Player

fWAR

Dollars (MM)

Granderson

13.9

$38.8

E. Jackson

7.0

$13.4

Total

20.9

$52.1

 

For Edwin Jackson, I’m only counting the first two years after the trade, because he became a free agent after that. The tradable assets in these cases are the team-control years.

The two players the Tigers gave up were both very useful – the six player-seasons the above table represents average 3.5 WAR per year (and that’s including Granderson being hurt for most of 2013). In all, the Tigers gave up basically 21 WAR at basically $52 million (a very reasonable $2.5 million per WAR). The Granderson-Jackson package was a heck of an asset, and the Tigers needed to get a killer return to make the trade worth it.

They did.

Player

fWAR

Dollars (MM)

Scherzer

17.4

$12.6

A. Jackson

14.6

$4.8

Coke

3.7

$3.8

Schlereth

-0.7

$0.9

Total

35.0

$22.1

 

Daniel Schlereth was a complete bust, but the Tigers still made out like bandits. The quartet combined to give the Tigers 35 WAR in production (so far) while only hitting a total of $22 million against the payroll (so far). That’s less than $650,000 per win. That’s not Mike Trout good, but the Tigers added 15 wins while saving $30 million. I’m no accountant, but I think that’s a good thing. If you could pay Miguel Cabrera at that same dollar-per-WAR rate, he’d have made only $9 million combined in his back-to-back MVP seasons.

And the WAR total could continue to climb as Scherzer (one year) and Jackson (two years) in particular remain under team control at below market rates.

I still hate that Granderson couldn’t stay in Detroit – he was a fan favorite and a great “character guy” to have represent the team – but as a pure baseball decision, it’s impossible to say that the trade was anything but an unmitigated success. We can only hope that we look back on the Doug Fister trade with such fondness in another four years.

Topics: Austin Jackson, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers, Max Scherzer

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  • Yuma 3:10

    Hi Matt…thanks for this. I can remember saying back in the winter of 2009 / 2010 that it would take a minimum of 4 years to truly evaluate this trade, and lo and behold here we are :) When it originally happened, I really didn’t know what to think of Jackson or Coke, I was excited for what we got from the D Backs in Scherzer and Schlereth. At the time I though Scherzer “could” be a dominant starter, and i picture Schlereth as a dominant set up man for many years. Boy was I wrong on him!!! But Scherzer has been between above average and great, Jackson has been good but leaves a lot to be desired, Coke started out good and had regressed to awful, and Schlereth….lets not mention him. Who won the trade? the Tigers of course based almost on Max alone.

    What was your opinion of the trade when it happened? Opposed? In favor? Did you envision Max being this good? Thanks for the article once again. —- YUMA