Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson Traded, Tear, But Now the Analysis


If you haven’t heard by now, you must be living in a hot mechanical Rhino and can’t get out.  The Tigers have traded RHP Edwin Jackson and CF Curtis Granderson.  Jackson goes to the Diamondbacks in exchange for RHP Max Scherzer and LHP Daniel Schlereth (son of NFL analyst on ESPN).  Granderson goes to the Yankees in exchange for prospects OF Austin Jackson and RHP Phil Coke.  So the Tigers get four solid prospects for two of their better players.

Was it a good trade?

The cop out answer would be, “if it pans out.” The overly emotional, more attached to Granderson’s personality and not the baseball player response would be, “awful trade.”  To me, though, this was a very smart baseball trade.

Let’s think about it.

Max Scherzer is a stud waiting in the wings.  He’s a former number one draft pick (11th overall) who dominated his way through the Minor Leagues.  Scherzer has a higher ceiling (we’ve talked about Jackson’s consistent 2nd half problems) and he’s also a year younger.  Some even think he had the better 2009 season, which if true, would mean advantage Detroit.  Also very important to note is that Jackson has already thrown 1226 innings in pro ball, while Scherzer has only pitched in 390.2.  Then you have Schlereth thrown in on  top.

As for the Granderson trade, it’s definitely tougher to swallow.  He’s been in the Tigers system from the start and appears to be an upstanding person for all we know.  Any time you put your heart and soul into cheering for a guy for seven years, there’s going to be a certain degree of attachment, or loyalty, involved.  Granderson created a lot of highlights over the years that nobody will forget.  However, there are also several memories of Granderson that I wish did not exist.  For example, the sinking feeling I got in my stomach whenever I saw him walking to the plate with a lefty on the mound.  Coincidentally, the LHP we received from the Yankees, Phil Coke, faced Granderson in his big league debut and struck him out.  Granderson’s splits create a strong argument that he shouldn’t even be a full time starter.  At this point in his career, the Tigers felt it was necessary to make a decision on him and they must have felt that he wasn’t going to improve against lefties.  They sold high on him and as a result, they get two touted prospects and save a decent amount of money over the next four years.

And that brings me to the business side of this.  Detroit is clearly in trouble financially, with all the bad contracts DD has made over the years and with the economy.  The Tigers, in order to stay competitive, needed to make what might be an unpopular deal with the fans, but a creative one, both in terms of talent and economics.  Of course, nobody is going to trade for the older, underperforming, bad contracts on the Tigers.  Everyone wanted EJax and Curtis, so that’s unfortunately, what DD had to work with.  But look at how it’s going to pay off:

Detroit will trim about $7 million in payroll by adding these four and trading its two All-Stars. Granderson will make $5.5 million in 2010 and Jackson likely $4-5 million after arbitration. None of the players coming to the Tigers have more than two years of major league experience and aren’t arbitration eligible. Each will likely make about the league minimum and could come in under $3 million as a group.

But the savings will become greater with each year.

Granderson is due $18.25 million in 2011 and 2012, and his club has a $13 million option for 2013 with a $2 million buyout.

Jackson will become a free agent after 2011 and his agent is hard-bargaining Scott Boras. If he keeps pitching like an All-Star, you do the math.

Meanwhile, the Tigers won’t have to offer anything beyond arbitration to their four new players over the next five years.

The savings will be significant for a team in a financially-strapped town.

On the surface it looks good. We can sit here and whine about how much we’re going to miss Curtis the person, but Curtis the baseball player was maxed out in Detroit.  In the end, this is still a business and ultimately, we as fans want a team on the field that has the best chance of leading us to a World Series.  There’s potential here that the Tigers can wind up with a better pitcher than EJax, a better OF than Curtis, and two quality relievers to boot.  The key word there is potential, but that’s all in addition to saving enough money where they can go out and buy needed players in a few years should these guys not pan out.

And I’m not alone on this. Here are some responses around the ‘net:

Keith Law writes that “Detroit’s the Winner” on ESPN:

The Detroit Tigers come out the winner here despite trading the two biggest names in the deal. They acquire two power arms from the Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as an inexpensive everyday centerfielder. Max Scherzer was better in 2009 than Edwin Jackson, with roughly the same velocity but more fastball life and a better slider. His delivery is rough and he’s had shoulder problems on and off since college, but he has the makings of a top-tier closer between his two plus-pitches and a very aggressive approach. Lefty Dan Schlereth has a similarly violent delivery and had Tommy John surgery in college, but he’s got two plus-pitches in his fastball and hard curveball (although it was harder in college and more slider-like) and he showed adequate control in a tiny major-league sample. From the Yankees, they get a middle reliever in lefty Phil Coke, who had fringy stuff as a minor league starter but could help the Tigers as a second lefty from the pen, and an inexpensive everyday centerfielder in Austin Jackson.

This was also with that…

Schlereth is a huge add for the Tigers. He has a big fastball, two breaking balls and an aggressive approach. He’ll probably blow his arm out again at some point, but between now and then he’ll provide good work in leveraged situations for the Tigers — and Leyland generally gets good work from his relievers.”

On top of shedding payroll, GM Dave Dombrowski added two premium arms and shored up his bullpen for the foreseeable future, all while getting their innings for a fraction of what it would have cost them to go out on the market to sign Jose Valverde or Mike Gonzalez.

Jonah Keri thinks the Yankees came out the winners and that Arizona finished 12th in the three team deal:

Grandy’s contract = huge bargain, so Yanks get edge over DET. Of the 3 teams in the deal, AZ finished 12th.

The only logical explanation for the #DBacks at this point is that Max Scherzer has been diagnosed with leprosy.  I give AZ a grade of Z-.  Shame #Rays didn’t know about AZ’s EJax fetish yr ago. Could’ve asked for Justin Upton, the Arizona Cardinals + Pizzeria Bianco

‘Duk at Big League Stew believes the Yanks and the Tigers are the winners:

GM Dave Dombrowski is under orders to shed payroll, but despite that restriction he still managed to bring hom a decent haul. It’ll be tough watching Granderson, a fan favorite, leave Motown, but the expected return from today’s deal could help soften that blow.

MLIVE seems to be along the “it could be good” line of thinking:

The Tigers in essence will be replacing Granderson with Yankees center field prospect and Austin Jackson, and Edwin Jackson with Diamondbacks pitcher Max Scherzer (9-11, 4.12 ERA).

And by taking a chance that Austin and Scherzer can become what Granderson and Jackson are, Detroit is picking up Yankees left-handed reliever Phil Coke (4-3, 4.50, 72 games) and Diamondbacks closer prospect Daniel Schlereth (1-4, 5.89).

So, it could be a great windfall for the Tigers.

Lastly, Billfer at DTWB has the heartfelt, emotional response: Take some time to grieve Tigers fans:

For those who are upset about the trade, I can’t blame you. There is a baseball reason for what went down. But right now it’s okay to grieve. Granderson was a remarkable player and a source of pride for everyone who flipped on that English D cap in the morning. This is the kind of trade that rips the soul out of a fan. The good news is that for those who have their Granderson jersey and called Granderson THEIR Tiger you don’t need to keep that jersey in the closet. It’s an instant classic.

Keeping that in mind, don’t lose sight of the fact that most of us are Detroit Tigers fans and not solely Curtis Granderson or Edwin Jackson fans.  It’s definitely sad to see a player that has been a part of the system for so long go, but you can’t look past the real meaning of this trade: putting our beloved Tigers in a better position to win for the years to come.

About Bob Biscigliano

Bob is a writer of s(p)orts