Granderson/Jackson/Scherzer/Jackson megatrade

By Jason Wojciechowski on December 8, 2009 at 8:10 PM

It's not every day that two Jacksons are involved in a trade without actually being traded for or with each other. The consensus seems to be "Yankees win huge, Tigers win, and Diamondbacks are idiots". I'm mostly in agreement with that, as you'll see, although I don't think it's a huge win for the Yankees so much as a very good, smart trade.

Yankees: They give up the young-and-touted Austin Jackson, the not-so-young-anymore-and-disappointing Ian Kennedy, and the throw-in Phil Coke and get back Curtis Granderson. We know Granderson: stellar hitter in 2007, very good hitter in 2008, disappointing but still average overall hitter in 2009, good defensive rep backed up by the UZR numbers (+5 runs per 150 runs in his career so far), and solid basestealer. Most importantly, he's under contract for a good long while: he'll play 2010 at 29 and there's a club option for 2013, when he'll be 32. He's owed just $5.5M next year, although that jumps to $8.25M, $10M, and $13M on the option. (Or a $2M buyout.) For a guy who's a legit 4-5 win player (3.4 WAR last year in his down year, 3.8 in 2008, when UZR rated him poorly, and 7.4 in his peak 2007 season), that's a great deal, especially for a Yankee team with the highest revenues in the game, one that will always be in the playoff hunt with the Red Sox, Rays, and rising Orioles breathing down their necks.

Sure, they had to give up Austin Jackson to get Granderson, but that's exactly why the Yankee farm system exists. They traded risk and cheapness for some measure of certainty. I think we have a pretty good idea how well Jackson's going to hit, at least for the next year or two: I'd say his likely batting line compares best to Franklin Gutierrez, who hit .339/.425, good for +6 batting runs. So then it coems down to defense. Is he a +25 defender, like Ryan Sweeney was this year? Then he's a 5.5-win player, better than Granderson, and cheaper to boot. He's a young star, albeit an unrecognized one because his value comes from his defense (again like Gutierrez). If he's a +10 defender like B.J. Upton, then he's a four-win player, about equivalent to Granderson, just off that star level, but still excellent, and with obvious upside, and, again, cheaper than the ex-Tiger. But what if he's just an average defender? Or even below-average? Well then you're looking at Marlon Byrd. Now, that's still a valuable player, and it's a better player than Melky Cabrera, but it's not enough better to make the Yankees happy. So the Yankees basically traded the chance that Jackson becomes a superstar (especially if he improves to more like a +10 or +15 hitter, along the lines of Jacoby Ellsbury or Shane Victorino) for Granderson so they could also rid themselves of the chance that he's merely Aaron Rowand. Giving up Kennedy, whose walk rates in the majors have been completely unacceptable, and Coke, who's a solid lefty reliever and nothing more, is something the Yankees can do without a second glance. The Tigers had to get some players back to hedge Granderson's risk, and that's who those two represent.

Tigers: Getting Austin Jackson back from the Yankees for Granderson is excellent for the reasons described above. If they'd decided they couldn't afford Granderson, they needed a center fielder now and for the future, and that's almost certainly what they got. Maybe Jackson craters, but it's unlikely. Slightly above-average offense combined with above average defense at a premium position (and durability -- he's played 134, 138, 131, and 132 games the last four seasons, which is a full minor-league year) is more valuable than people (still) realize.

But on top of that, they managed to flip Edwin Jackson along with Ian Kennedy (whose shortcomings are discussed above) to Arizona for Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth. Scherzer's xFIP last year? 3.88. Edwin Jackson's? 4.39. So before we even talk about age or contract or past performance or a breakdown of first half vs. second, we've got a pitcher who's a half-run better coming back to Detroit. I don't need to tell you that Edwin Jackson is arbitration-eligible and made $2.2M last year, and is thus due for a pretty significant raise. Scherzer's got a different contractual situation because he signed a major-league deal after being drafted. But the total value of that four-year pact was just $4.3M, and 2010 is the fourth year of the deal, so he's going to make far less next year than Edwin is. He'll then (I think) be arbitration eligible for two more years before hitting free agency. Edwin, meanwhile, has just one more year before hitting free agency. So the Tigers, if we just consider the Scherzer-Jackson part of the deal, get the better pitcher, cheaper, and for longer? That's what we in the blogging industry call a "win".

Then there's Daniel Schlereth. He debuted in the Arizona system in 2008, threw 12 innings at Rookie and A-ball, then pitched 27.2 innings at AA and AAA in 2009 before hitting the majors for 18.1 innings. The sample sizes make his performance almost not worth talking about, but he did strike out 22 hitters in those 18 major-league innings, this despite being 23 years old and with under 40 innings of minor-league experience under his belt. Sure, Ian Kennedy might still be something, but between his injuries and his ineffectiveness, I wouldn't want to be the one betting on it. I'll take Schlereth's electric arm and reputation as a future closer for him.

Diamondbacks: I don't really have to say anything more, do I? It's all up there. Arizona gave up the better and cheaper starter between Scherzer and Jackson, and got Ian Kennedy (the immortal Ian Kennedy) as a throw-in only by also giving up a young reliever with a tremendous strikeout rate. Ian Kennedy can make this deal look ok for the Diamondbacks if he returns to the form he was supposed to have coming up through the Yankee system, but that's a mighty big if. And that also counts on Schlereth not overcoming his own wildness issues.

So like I said from the outset, I think the Tigers-Yankees part of the deal is a nice win-win, not an enormously successful deal for New York like some would have it, but the Diamondbacks portion of the trade just has me scratching my head. It certainly looks like the Tigers maximized Edwin Jackson's value, and got the perfect kind of player back for Curtis Granderson as well.