I love Curtis Granderson. Off the field, the guy is everything you could ever want in a professional athlete. He is a phenomenal human being with some exceptional baseball skills. With that said, it’s time to stop crying.
In every early analysis of the Tigers most recent acquisition of Johnny Damon, by fans and media, there is always a question as to why the Tigers are claiming to cut payroll in trading Granderson, but then giving Johnny Damon $8 million. However, that question is rooted in poor logic.
Yes, the Tigers have said that the Granderson deal was partially to shed payroll. That part of the trade rationale, however, is not mutually exclusive from the fact that trading the center fielder was a baseball move. Granderson is scheduled to make $25.75 million over the next three years. There are serious concerns not only about his impermissible amount of strikeouts in the leadoff hole or his atrocious .183 batting average against lefties, but also that his defensive skills are diminishing. Those are tangible and statistical facts. When you have those concerns about your leadoff hitter, who you owe $25.75 million, of course finances are involved. Obviously, if you can avoid it, you don’t want to pay a player that amount of money when you are not getting the right return on your investment. The value the Tigers received for Granderson and Edwin Jackson was phenomenal. So, yes, they wanted to shed payroll, but not just for the sake of lowering the bottom line, but rather, in the interest building a better ballclub.
Despite the Tigers concerns over Granderson, you are still talking about a quality hitter, who was also your leadoff hitter. Trading him left a huge void at the top of the lineup. Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore are rookies who are clearly going to be up and down throughout the season. It’s hard to imagine putting a competitive team on the field without guys consistently getting on base for Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera.
Enter Johnny Damon. The Tigers are obligated to pay Damon $8 million dollars for 2010. That’s it. No strings attached. While the Tigers groom Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore, they now have a proven winner with first-class numbers to ease the burden. Damon will be a solid leadoff hitter with his .355 on-base percentage, or a solid two-hole hitter to protect one of the rookies in the leadoff spot. They are basically paying $8 million in order to avoid paying $25.75 AND remain competitive.
Being critical of the Tigers vision with regard to the Granderson trade is one thing, but criticism of Mike Ilitch for spending money on someone who will clearly help this team is misplaced. The Granderson trade was never about aimless cost cutting. It was a carefully crafted re-investment by the Tiger organization that needed to be done. The Tigers are better now. They can easily compete in this division. Time to move on.