In a surprise move late Monday evening, the Blue Jays announced the signing of 36-year-old (will be 37 on opening day) outfielder Curtis Grandserson.
Free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson in agreement with #BlueJays on one-year, $5M contract, sources tell The Athletic. Deal also includes incentives and is pending a physical.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 16, 2018
Given all the reports about the Jays’ interest in top of the field talent like Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, and the recently traded-to-San-Francisco, Andrew McCutchen, it must come as a shock to Blue Jays fans to see the first outfielder acquired this offseason be the aging Granderson.
Granderson is an interesting player. He has basically been a league-average or slightly better hitter for the last few years. He was actually in the midst on one of his best seasons in recent memory last year when he was hitting .228/.334/.481 with the Mets, before being traded to the Dodgers and going in the tank.
That slash line should also tell you a little something about Granderson’s profile. He takes walks and has good extra-base power, but he swings and misses a lot. He’s not Teoscar Hernández with the whiffs, but he’s definitely a bit of a hacker.
Still, he brings some valuable skills to the table in Toronto. He bats from the left side, which is something this club was sorely lacking, and he is very durable, despite his advanced age. He has played in 147 or more games in each of the last four seasons and six of the last seven. The only reason that number isn’t 150+ is because he fell into a reserve role with the Dodgers in 2017. He did not get hurt. And as mentioned he takes walks and has some pop.
On the defensive end, Granderson was once a very solid centerfielder. But as the years have gone on, his range has diminished a little bit. He can still fake the middle of the diamond in an emergency, but he is definitely best suited to left field (thanks to a poor throwing arm) where he is average to slightly above.
Finally, he is also considered to be one of the nicest, most pleasant people to have in a clubhouse in all of baseball. We often scoff at the concept of clubhouse chemistry, but there is no question that teams (and Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro) place some value on it. Granderson definitely brings that.
All that said, there are clear risks to this move. Granderson’s skills looked “old” in Los Angeles. If that is the new normal, he’s not going to work out. Given his age, it’s a not something to ignore. He also struggled pretty heavily against left-handed pitchers, though that can be managed. Finally, the health could also start to deteriorate, despite his track record.
As for how he fits in Totonto, a reserve/part-time role is ideal for Granderson. He could be the left-handed side of a platoon, perhaps with the aforementioned Hernández or Steve Pearce, or give Pillar a day off with Hernández or someone outside the organization sliding to centre. He could get 400 plate appearances or more very easily just by giving rest to occasional outfield regulars. That said, the Blue Jays absolutely need to keep working to upgrade their outfield, with a signing like Lorenzo Cain making even more sense today than it did this morning, but there’s still some time (and there should definitely be budget room) for that move.
Another acquisition will create some roster issues, as that would likely force at least one of Pearce of Carrera to be traded, but thankfully, both players are on reasonable salary figures and should be reasonably easy to move given their recent performance.
So while Curtis Granderson is by no means the answer to this team’s outfield woes, at such a low cost, he upgrades the floor tremendously and for $5M, the Blue Jays could be getting very nice value.
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