Following the historic collapse of the Detroit Tigers during the final weeks of the 2009 baseball season, change is inevitable for the Motor City. For a team to be THAT close to playing October baseball – only to have the opportunity snatched away in extra innings of an extra game – it is foolish to assume that the Tigers’ front offices will be content to just leave things alone. Instead, general manager David Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland will be spending the next few months trying to determine exactly what went wrong, and who are the best people to help fix those problems.
Additionally, there are several key players from the Tigers who become free agents this offseason. With several very expensive contracts already on their books (such as $10M in 2009 for the disappointing Dontrelle Willis and $19M for Magglio Ordonez), the Tigers are facing the prospect of a very costly next few seasons.
With the inevitable winds of change blowing on the horizon, the Tigers must look for any way possible to add talent to the team without adding to the payroll. One option considered, an option that could have a very large impact on the league, is to shop around All-Star centerfielder Curtis Granderson. After publicly acknowledging that Dombrowski was willing to make a trade with Granderson, several teams immediately began to express an interest in dealing for the 2009 Man of the Year.
Granderson is a rare talent in baseball. Although his 2009 batting average of .249 was low by his standards, he has been one of the top leadoff hitters in the American League over the past four seasons. Despite the lower than normal batting average last season, Granderson still managed to hit a career-high 30 home runs along with eight triples and 23 doubles. On the base paths Granderson also accounted for 20 stolen bases last season.
It is his unique combination of speed and power that make Granderson so appealing. Helping to sweeten the deal is the fact that the Tigers seem desperate to reload the roster on the cheap. Because the relative cost in order to get Granderson into their lineup is low (he will likely be dealt for a handful of prospects), Granderson could become the steal of the offseason.
One such team that has seemed very excited about the possibility of bringing Granderson on board is the Chicago Cubs, who are currently paying more than $12M a year to Kosuke Fukudome to play center field. Fukudome was a very highly sought after free agent from Japan, and the Cubs were quick to sign him to their roster for a $48M deal over a four year period. Halfway through that contract, however, Fukudome has not performed nearly as well as Granderson, but makes nearly four times the salary. Granderson would bring better hitting and fielding to the Cubs in the center field position at a fraction of the cost.
Two other teams that could be in the market for Granderson are the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels. The Yankees face the likelihood of losing Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon to free agency during the offseason, and will be in need of an outfielder. Because the World Series champs are ALWAYS interested in making a deal, it would not be a surprise at all to see Granderson in pinstripes by the time April rolls around. As for the Angels, there is some question as to where he would fit in because they already have a marquis centerfielder in Torii Hunter. Nevertheless, the Angels organization has expressed an immediate interest in dealing for Granderson.
No matter where he ends up, Curtis Granderson is a difference maker both on and off the field. With so many teams seemingly interested in him, the Tigers will have plenty of offers to chew on over the next few months. Whether the Tigers ultimately deal him away or not, his reported availability should have a huge impact on the league. With so many big-market teams apparently interested in him, Curtis Granderson could make for the blockbuster trade of the year!