One school of thought on Curtis Granderson is that he will accept the Yankees’ qualifying offer, return on a one-year, $14.1 million contract and re-enter the free-agent market next offseason.
I wouldn’t bet on it.
Sure, Granderson played in only 61 games last season after twice getting hit by pitches and suffering broken bones, first in his right forearm, then in his left pinkie. It’s not as if he has chronic leg or back problems. Both of his injuries were freakish. His previous two seasons were excellent. And the industry, in case you haven’t noticed, is starved for power.
The qualifying offer will hurt Granderson’s market, given the reluctance of teams to sacrifice high draft picks and the accompanying bonus money for free agents. But compare Granderson’s slash line to Nick Swisher’s a year ago, when Swisher landed a four-year, $56 million free-agent contract from the Indians after the Yankees stuck him with a qualifying offer.
That’s right, both had the same .828 OPS in almost an identical number of career plate appearances. Granderson, who turns 33 on March 16, is eight months older than Swisher was as a free agent. Swisher is a switch-hitter, Granderson bats left-handed. Whatever, the two were about as close statistically as players can get.
And in some ways, Granderson is more appealing.
Granderson was the game’s only 40-100-100 player – 40 homers, 100 RBI, 100 runs scored – in both 2011 and ’12. His 84 homers during that span were 10 more than the player with the next-highest amount, Ryan Braun. Only Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder had more RBI.
True, Granderson isn’t as attractive when judged by OPS (29th overall in 2011-12) and OPS-plus (28th). He also struggled against lefties in ’12 after crushing them in ’11. And he is not the center fielder he once was – the Yankees moved him to a corner last season to make room for a superior defender, Brett Gardner.
Well, every free-agent position player has imperfections, except perhaps for Robinson Cano (sorry, I don’t worry about Cano’s occasional lack of hustle when he has missed only 14 games in the past seven years).
Teams will note that Granderson was not merely a Yankee Stadium creation – he hit 47 homers at home and 37 on the road in 2011-12. They will note that he offers superior – no, sterling – character. And they will note that the market is all but devoid of power, this offseason and beyond.
Some clubs still will resist forfeiting their first-round picks and accompanying bonus money, which allows them to better manipulate their draft pool, spreading different amounts to different players. But teams at the bottom of the first round should be less reluctant. And teams with protected first-round picks – which include Granderson’s hometown White Sox and Cubs, plus the Mets, Mariners and Phillies – should be especially tempted to dive in, knowing they would lose only a second rounder for signing him.
The deadline for Granderson to decide on his qualifying offer is 5 p.m. ET Monday. If he accepts, he will re-enter the market next winter before his age 34 season, assuming a different kind of risk. Why bother? Teams need players like Granderson. And they are ready to spend their new national TV money, which is increasing from $25 million to $52 million annually next season.