For the first time in four years, the New York Mets opened their wallets and signed an impact free agent. Ex-Yankee Curtis Granderson and the Mets agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract that will occur during Granderson’s Age 33-36 seasons. This signing gives the Mets a power hitting corner outfielder that will help jump start the Met offense. Stop me if you’ve read something like this before.
Nearly four years ago, the Mets and left fielder, Jason Bay agreed to a four-year, $60 million contract. Prior to signing the contract, the 30-year-old Bay was coming off a huge season with the Boston Red Sox where he slugged 36 home runs and drove in 119 RBIs. Met fans were convinced that Bay and David Wright would bolster the middle of the Met batting order. However, Bay only appeared in 288 games as a Met and slugged 31 total home runs. This contract was a huge disappointment to say the least.
When assessing Granderson, a few red flags immediately come to mind:
- Park Changes: Granderson is leaving the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium for Citi Field. According to Fangraphs, Yankee Stadium boosts left-handed power numbers by 14 percent while Citi Field only boosts these numbers by one percent. Granderson does have three 30+ home run seasons under his belt including one with Detroit in 2009. Will the spacious Citi Field affect his power output? The park factors say ‘yes’.
- Injuries: After getting hit by a pitch in the wrist during Spring Training, Granderson missed months of action and never developed any sort of rhythm. Granderson played in a career low 61 games and only hit 7 home runs. The Mets must be convinced that his wrist injury is not longer an issue. However, he’s not coming off a monster season like Jason Bay was and he never found his stroke during 2013.
- The Yankees: It’s pretty telling when a player’s previous team doesn’t make an offer. The Yankees have spent over $200 million on free agent outfielders not named Curtis Granderson. Hell, the Yankees signed Carlos Beltran, who is five years older than Granderson. Over the last few seasons, Granderson’s strikeout percentage has steadily increased while his on-base percentage is declining. This is not a recipe for success.
Despite his obvious flaws, Granderson has shown he’s athletic enough to play multiple outfield positions. Juan Lagares is slated to start in center field, so Granderson will likely man left field. Granderson isn’t much of a base stealer anymore, but he is one of the game’s most astute base runners. Like I noted in the Jacoby Ellsbury article, speed tends to age well and an athlete of Granderson’s caliber is less likely to hit the wall.
Heading into 2014, projections are calling for Granderson to net 2.5-to-3 wins. If we value a win at $7.0 million, Granderson’s projected value outweighs his $13 million salary. However, the Mets have backloaded his contract so they’ll take on more risk in Years 3 and 4. On the surface, Granderson presents a tremendous upgrade for the Met outfield. However, there are some obvious red flags that must be considered and monitored.
The Granderson signing gives ownership and Sandy Alderson an extra week or so to plan their next move. The Mets are still far from being a competitive team, but this signing provides some hope for the future of the team. Add in Granderson’s off-the-field impact and the Mets have the potential for a big time signing. As long as he’s healthy, Granderson won’t be Jason Bay 2.0.