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Granderson Signing Isn’t Jason Bay, Part 2, But It Ain’t Good Either

In Sports on December 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm

By: Brian Mangan

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The Mets have reportedly signed Curtis Granderson to a four year, $60 million contract.  The reaction around the Mets blogosphere is just depressing, with many fans/bloggers sounding like they’re just shrugging their shoulders sadly, glad that anyone would sign with the team.  Here are some actual quotes:

“Granderson isn’t a perfect player, but this was a move that had to be made.”

No it wasn’t.

“Oh, and he’s capable of hitting at least 30 home runs a year and he plays a very good outfield, which is something the Mets desperately need.” 

It would be cool if it was true, but it isn’t.

“However, this is a deal the Mets had to make; it helps change the narrative and brings a legit, big-league player to a position the Mets really needed to fill.”

No they didn’t.

For $15 million per season, the Mets did not break the bank with Granderson.  It’s a signing that has a little upside – especially compared to the other free agents presently on the market, and it can’t be a wild overpay, because the money and years are not outrageous.  However, it’s unlikely that Granderson will be either a league average fielder or batter, and we at the Read Zone doubt he will perform well enough to justify the contract.

Declining Defense

Granderson’s Ultimate Zone Rating in center field has decreased over the last seven years:  13.0, 14.8, -11.8, -1.4, 9.0, -5.3, -18.5.  He posted a positive rating last year, but in less than 200 fielding innings.  This trend is not going in the right direction.

We like you, Grandy. Don’t take this personally.

If you trust eyes over numbers, Fangraphs fans have given him the following “overall” defensive ratings over the last four years: 64, 62, 59, 44.

What else would you expect from a guy who is now 32 years old?  He’s certainly not getting any younger.  His defense is no longer an asset, and will continue to deteriorate.  The best-case scenario is that he’s a scratch (or average) centerfielder and a good right fielder in the first year of the deal; but more likely, he’s already a far below average fielder in centerfielder, and a below average leftfielder. [Ed.  We know he’s going to be asked to play a corner, probably LF.  As we said, he’ll probably be average to below-average there, which is not an asset].

Average Offense

Let’s be real here — the Mets are in need of offense (hence my colleague’s tweet that the Mets “had to do” this, ugh).  However Granderson is not a good bet going forward even on the offensive side of the plate. Even if you were willing to give Granderson a pass on his terrible .229/.317/.407 slash-line from last season (good for a 97 OPS+), his last healthy season he batted only .232/.319/.492 for an OPS+ of 115.

Although a 115 OPS+ or 43 home runs would be welcome on any team (even if the on-base percentage is a low .319), the odds of Granderson replicating that kind of season is slim-to-none.

FN In case you think I’m not giving Granderson full credit offensively, he did post a .262/.364/.552 line in 2012, for a 142 OPS+ and 41 home runs.  He was great.  But that season is a definite outlier, as we’ll discuss.

Over the last five years, Granderson has batted .249, .247, .262, .232, and .229.  Although that had come with significant power, you’re not very far from .230 to out of baseball, unless you’re Adam Dunn offensively or Peter Bourjos defensively.  Over the last two years, Granderson has struck out 28.5% and 28.2% of the time.  He’s a low average whiff-machine that needs to generate power to generate anything positive on offense.  These are not the trends of a player you want.


I’m less concerned than most about Granderson’s transition from Yankee Stadium to Citifield, as it appears that, although Granderson is a little pull-happy, he is a hard-hitter and won’t be harmed too much by Citifield’s spacious dimensions.  Nonetheless, Fangraphs projections have Granderson posting a line around .235/.326/.435 … and this is just in the first year of this contract.

Nonetheless, Comparisons to Jason Bay Aren’t Fair 

One of my favorite Mets writers out there, Eno Sarris, does a valiant job over at Fangraphs saying that the Granderson signing is better than the Bay signing (it is) and asking “Why people don’t people like it more?”

First of all, we should throw any comparison to Bay right out the window.  Granderson over his career has been speedy, athletic, a positive on defense, and has contributed with the bat in various ways.  Bay, although he came to the Mets with a better offensive pedigree than Granderson, was slower and much less athletic.  That is why we, at the time Bay signed with the Mets, were one of the only sites to completely lambast the deal, calling it a “colossal mistake” and compared him to Danny Tartabull and Ryan Klesko, players who contributed nothing in their mid-30’s and were out of baseball.

When the Mets signed Bay, Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman compared the signing to the Mets 1981-1982 acquisition of George Foster.  I said at the time that the comparison to Bay was inaccurate — the team was at a different point of the success cycle, and a player of Bay’s archetype wouldn’t fail because of the spacious dimensions of Citifield, but because he had old-man skills and would not age gracefully.

George Foster

However, the comparison between Foster and Granderson is striking.  George Foster was 32 going on 33 at the time; Foster was a former MVP (Granderson almost was); and Foster, although he had turned in a good 1981, he had seen his power numbers decline each year from 1977 to 1981, from 52 to 40 to 30 to 25 to 22.

Here is what Pearlman wrote about the Foster acquisition, including a quote from then-Mets GM Frank Cashen:

In the winter of 1981-82, the New York Mets were Big Apple nobodies — a star-less, charisma-less franchise coming off of a miserable 41-62 strike-shortened season.
* * *

Did Cashen think the former National League MVP was the missing piece that New York needed to turn itself into a winner? Hardly . . . “But signing George was a message to baseball and to our fans that we were in it to win,” Cashen said. “From here on out, we would do whatever it takes.”

This could be, verbatim, what most Mets fans have said about Granderson so far.  A bad team who makes a signing of a charismatic former star in the hopes of putting butts in the seats and because they really “needed” to fill a spot on the roster.

It’s Not a Good Signing

Projections posted on Fangraphs predict Granderson will be worth between 2.2 wins above replacement (WAR) and 3.0 WAR next season.  I have seen around the internets that many analysts have concluded that a “win above replacement,” a value which takes into account offense, defense, and baserunning, is going for about $6.5MM or $7MM per win this offseason.  Regardless of whether you think that is too much (it is), Granderson is only barely worth the contract even if you take the most optimistic estimate and give him a graceful decline for age with no injury:

2014: 3.0 WAR = $21M

2015: 2.5 WAR = $17.5M

2016: 2.0 WAR = $14M

2017: 1.5 WAR = $10.5M  Total = $63 million in value.

If you were to use ZiPS projections, those numbers are 2.4, 2.2, 2.0, 1.3, which would make the deal a failure.

Baseball isn’t played on a spreadsheet, but looking at this provides context when it comes to dollar figures and years.  Will the Mets ultimately be hamstrung by the Granderson deal?  Only a little.  Will it go down as an all-time bust?  Probably not.  But despite what most of the mainstream appears to be saying, it’s not a signing that the Mets needed to make right now as they attempt to emerge from a half-decade of failure.

I really like Granderson.  He’ll be better than Eric Young Jr.  I like that the deal prevented us from going after Nelson Cruz or making another, more expensive mistake this offseason.  He may even be a valuable contributor to the team in 2015 when Harvey returns and we may have a chance to compete.  But it’s too many years and too many dollars for me — not to mention the loss of a draft pick.  When the Mets signed Bay, I asked the world this question:

On the field, the Mets are going to be better with Jason Bay than without him. That is not the question. The question is whether they will be more well-positioned to be successful with Bay and his contract than without him, both this year and in the future. I believe that the answer to that question is no. 

I believe with regard to Granderson, the answer is also no.  I hope, unlike with Bay, that this time I’m wrong.

Official Prediction: I think he’ll be liked as a Met, even if he struggles. First year: .240/.330/.440, 22 HR, 180K, 2.5 WAR (-15 UZR in centerfield, 0 UZR in right field). Fourth year: .230/.315/.385, 5 HR, part time player, happily accepting his World Series ring.

Edit (6:32 p.m.):  The incomparable John Sickels over at http://www.minorleagueball.com did with Curtis Granderson what I did with Jason Bay, namely, compared him with his 10 most comparable players according to Bill James’ Sim Scores.  I will present the list and his analysis with only two comments:  (1) this list is not good and (2) Jason Bay is, of course, on it:

“Through age 32, Granderson’s Bill James Sim Scores bring up the following comparisons:
Ron Gant
Bob Allison
J.D. Drew
Roy Sievers
Jose Cruz
Jason Bay
Wally Post
Jesse Barfield
Bobby Thomson
Kirk Gibson

If the historical parallels mean anything, of the ten most comparable players through age 32, only one, Roy Sievers, was a productive, consistent, and durable player for the next four years of his career. Four, Cruz, Post, Barfield and Bay, were completely washed up by 33. The others weren’t totally washed up at his stage and had at least one additional productive season, but were erratic and/or injury prone.”

*                    *                    *

Brian Mangan is an attorney living in New York City.  He understands the desire to do something to get better but …. ugh.  At least this move makes the Chris Young acquisition make a little more sense.

*                    *                    *

*                    *                    *

Follow the Read Zone on twitter at @readzonenow, Brian on twitter at @brianpmangan, and Mike on twitter at @mabitab.

Thank you to Matt Cerrone over at Metsblog for the link, as always!

Related Articles:

On Robinson Cano and the Player/Contract Dichotomy 

Why The Mets Need to Stand Pat With Ike Davis

Mets Sign Chris Young (OF) Analysis

An Open Letter to New York Mets Fans From Carlos Beltran’s Mole

  1. Talk about being a downer. on the flip side Mets fans would be mad if the Mets didn’t sign anyone.
    Two things to point out. The comps you used had success somewhere else and wilted under the pressures of the “big city”. Curtis Granderson was traded to the Yankees and had 2 great years. He also had success before the trade in that big park they had in Detroit.
    Another thing, his power wasn’t really a product of a small park. His home/away homerun splits are close to being identical. He will probably be ok hitting in citi.

    • Hey thanks for the comment. I don’t believe that professional athletes “wilt” under big city pressure, so I didn’t take that into account in analyzing Granderson.

  2. This article is pathetic for a plethora of reasons. 1. You make Granderson sound like he can’t even wipe his own a** 2. You make it sound like the Mets made an awful move with this signing, when in REALITY it was a fantastic signing for an abundance of reasons 3. You question the Mets fans intelligence immediately and call them stupid 4. You base your entire article off of projections for the future and he hasn’t even stepped on the field this year yet, and 5. Any TRUE FAN of The Mets wouldn’t write such a horrible, idiodic, childish, and pathetic article. It makes me sick that you reference yourself as a mets fan. And just to validate all of my reasons for this article being horrific and the reason you should be fired, you write,”The reaction around the Mets blogosphere is just depressing, with many fans/bloggers sounding like they’re just shrugging their shoulders sadly, glad that anyone would sign with the team.” HEY A**HOLE your write there with them you hypocrite! This entire article if a shrug of the shoulders, and basically saying “F*** it we blew it because Granderson is a moron who can’t even spell his name, yet we expect him to be a great baseball player”. I truly hope you get a big reality check because you are a terrible writer, awful fan and idiot of a man.

    • Tony: Insulting the author is one thing, but can you articulate a cognizable argument in favor of the signing? If would you like to write a well-sourced piece in favor of the Granderson signing to be published on our site, e-mail me at mike@thereadzone.com.

    • Well, Tony, thanks for the two commments? 1. I do not make Granderson sound like he can’t “wipe his own a**” as I pointed out his success in 2011 and 2012 and said: I really like Granderson. He’ll be better than Eric Young Jr. He may even be a valuable contributor to the team in 2015 when Harvey returns and we may have a chance to compete. But it’s too many years and too many dollars for me — not to mention the loss of a draft pick.

      The projections are just a tool, and I am free to deviate from them if I think there is any reason to believe that Granderson will be better or worse than they say.

      I am a Mets fan. A big Mets fan. I care enough about the Mets to write big long stupid articles about them, don’t I?

      The internet is a tough place so I’m going to go ahead and ignore most of the personal comments and you sound like you’re very emotional right now. But I’m looking forward to reading others’ reactions to the deal and hopefully becoming more optimistic about it.

  3. This writer should be fired. This article is so pathetic for so many reasons and so wrong for a plethora of them. HEY A**HOLE if you knew anything about the team of the New York Mets you’d be writing a completely different article. Just to validate my point that this guy should be fired, you write,”The reaction around the Mets blogosphere is just depressing, with many fans/bloggers sounding like they’re just shrugging their shoulders sadly, glad that anyone would sign with the team.” HEY D***HEAD YOUR RIGHT THERE WITH EM!

    • Wow man, did he crap in your cheerios or what?

      • lol…I think so, yeah.

        Actually, the article reads like someone who wants to be the first to say “I told you so”.

        Here’s more analysis of FA signings:

        Granderson is a risky signing.
        Cano is a risky signing.
        Ellsbury is a risky signing.
        McCann is a risky signing.

        Funny how there are no free agents out there who guarantee awesome production in the prime of their careers, and at a really cheap price. Why is that???

  4. Why take into account his declining defense for a position he is not playing with the Mets (CF)? Lagares will start the season there, they have Den Dekker if Lagares falters, and Chris Young can play CF.

    If we are talking about the defensive spectrum, LF and RF (whichever Granderson plays) are significantly easier positions than CF and with two plus defenders around him, Granderson should post a positive defensive rWAR and a relatively solid DRS (DRS is a better stat than UZR in SSS). Projections are nice too but they are far from infallible.

    Offense is a different story but if he can give the Mets 25+ homers a year, steal 15-20 bases, and post a 2 oWAR next year, he should be a solid bat. No one expects him to put up YS power numbers in Citi Field.

    Getting into the argument about overpayment in terms of major FA is pointless imo, almost every major FA requires overpayment in order to acquire them. There are very team friendly deals and if you want to make that argument, then I can bring Chris Young who signed for significantly less than his potential value.

    • This is a great comment, thank you for pointing those things out. You’re right that FA deals are almost be definition overpays — the question is whether its an overpay relative to other FA deals, because signing these guys is a necessary evil to win.

      Re: the defensive spectrum, you’re right, of course. And a lot of teams are putting guys into corner outfield slots for their defense nowadays rather than just putting sluggers out there. Nonetheless if he’s truly a LF for the rest of his career, that makes .230 BA 20 HR look a lot worse than it did from a CF.

  5. ZIPS, Steamer, Oliver, and anything Fangraphs related in terms of projections is just too much prognosticating on information we don’t know in terms of peripherals, health, etc

  6. You’re a f**kin idiot. That’s all I have to say about you and this bulls**t article

  7. Reducing baseball to this soulless, data driven analysis is overkill to me. While I value some of what the data says, there will never be anything to replace talent+competitive spirit+guts+shear determination of spirit.

  8. Now that you’re done trashing the Granderson signing, I’m curious to see what other available power hitting corner OFs you think could have been had for a better deal because there is no way the Mets could have not filled that glaring hole this offseason. Please do tell.

    • ***silence***crickets***silence***

      • As many people have pointed out, I didn’t articulate an alternative in the article. That was not because I don’t have my own ideas on what I’d do — it’s because I wasn’t writing a treatise about the organization in general. Ain’t nobody got time for that (or to read that).

        Since so many have asked, though, I plan to write something on it this week to respond to specific questions. I hope you check back.

  9. They should have signed Nelson Cruz instead for 75 million 4 years now have 2 outfielders young and Curtis with average 235. Pitiful.

    • yeah, let’s sign the older, more expensive player with terrible home/away splits coming off PEDs suspension. Makes sense.

    • No idea how much of his power historically was derived from PEDs. Plus he is worse defensively. I would not have paid more for him. Maybe same deal. At same price I prefer Granderson.

      • Kevin, I think I agree with you and prefer Granderson at 4/60 to Cruz at 4/75 also given that Cruz is so bad defensively and so injury prone.

        With that said, the Granderson signing is OKAY — I say that in the article — but I don’t agree that the Mets needed to make a move (and lose a draft pick) when they aren’t going anywhere next year.

  10. The article said it itself “Baseball isn’t played on a spreadsheet” I wish alot more fans and “writers” for that matter would realize that. Some of these statistics and data are just nonsense that are manifested out of theory and combining stats that have no business being combined….Keep the scientific stats in the lab with the scientists, baseball has no use for them. I’d say that even if I despised the signing. At least, the other sports haven’t taken on these new stats that just really mean nothing

    • BA, RBI, SLG, fielding percentage – those are all stats.

      Yes, WAR is a little esoteric, but it’s derived from all the regular stats that we are used to.

  11. after reading the first 5 lines of this article, i realize you are a joke of writer. you should probably be selling electronic goods at PC richards. are you happy with yourself? you sound like a moron.

  12. “comperison” LOL

  13. For someone so into the “on paper” side of things, you’d think you’d know how to spell. And you’re an ATTORNEY? Dear God.

  14. You do realize he will be playing in left field? And that he is a gap hitter? His numbers on defense and average are being taking out of context considering where he will be playing most of the time and at the position he will be manning everyday.

  15. You sir, are a moron. This article isn’t worth the energy it took to press the keys to write it. Nuff said.

  16. And..who exactly should the Mets have gotten? you are talking that at 32 years old he is an old man-These guys take better care of themselves these days and there is no reason why he can’t be productive for the next 4 years. I mean there are 38 year olds who are still bashing the ball. The Mets had to do something and they did-Their outfield now is 100% better than it has been in awhile. This article just re-enforces the idea that anybody can have a web page and write anything they want to and make it sound legit
    You should tell us what the Mets should do instead of just criticizing and by the way I think Sandy alderson and The wilpons have done a lousy job for the fans so there goes the biased angle

  17. They did have to sign Granderson. He is the only proven major league outfielder on this team and hits for power. Two things this minor league team of the last 3 years needed desperately. Im sure fangraphs didnot predict the production of Marlon Byrd last year based on his previous 3-5 seasons . Out of the signings in NewYork the past few days, it was the one that made the most sense and least risk, i think. Does it make the Mets a contender? Not at all and does (WAR) consider the pathetic replacements the Mets have for corner outfield?

    • I don’t think we disagree that much. Granderson makes the Mets better, it’s true. The other OF options beyond Chris Young and Lagares are extremely poor. For the record though I did like the Byrd signing a lot.

      • For the record, I would have been less turned off by your editorial if you hadn’t spent so much time pointing out your previous correct calls.

        I enjoyed the read, although I felt it to be a bit lazy. Its too easy to simply critisize the deal in a bubble. It would have been more useful to examine the deal within the context of the market (availabilty of alternatives). As is, you have no justification for your stance that this is not a deal the mets needed.

  18. Yeah, no player is worth the contract he’s getting. We get it, genius.

    Rather than writing crap like “WAR/UZR/comps say this is a bad signing!!!1!”, why not suggest some alternatives. It’s lazy and sloppy to just point out that it’s a risky deal. By defintion, EVERY FA signing is risky, because the signing team always offers more than every other MLB team. Right? Isn’t that how it works?

    Why don’t you say what the Mets should have done, if you’re so effing brilliant?

  19. Thanks for the laughs! This is true comedy. You should talk to Keith Hernandez, Tom Seaver, and other baseball greats and let them know that at long last, you’ve figured out baseball! You can assess signings before the person plays a game, and even go 4 years out! Wow! You’re amazing! Don’t hesitate, with you around, there literally is no need for games to be played. The entire world will simply rely on your stellar analysis to determine who wins the World Series every year!

  20. I understand your analysis on Granderson’s stats as a sole player but don’t you think he brings more tangibles to the table? Offering Wright more protection in the line up; another threat, although a soon to be diminishing one, on the base paths; a mentor to Lagares and an immense clubhouse presence.

    • I’ll give you this much: (a) Granderson is enormously well-liked, which is good and (b) having a second major league caliber bat in the lineup will help immensely. I hope the deal pays off. I don’t think that it will, but as I said in the article, at $15M/per, it can’t be that much of an overpay. Thanks for the comment.

      • By the looks of these comments, it seems you likely advertised on a site like Metsblog. You are a realistic, Insightful analyst and should push your stuff in better places, like SB Nation… Not the drechs of the internet and a place that produces uninformed morons like Metsblog.

  21. […] Brian Mangan on the Mets signing Curtis Granderson. His take is smart, and it ain’t pretty. But I’m still […]

  22. […] the last year we’ve brought you analysis on Curtis Granderson signing with the Mets, and Alex Ovechkin leaving the NHL for the KHL.  We’ve reviewed and analyzed the Sing-Off […]

  23. […] regard to Granderson, we opined on that signing that we did not like it in the long run at all, although we did note that it was a signing with significant upside.  Granderson posted 1.4 WAR in […]

  24. […] is not the blog taking an opportunity to crow about being right about Granderson‘s signing being ill advised, but rather, a warning to fellow fans that things might be worse […]

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  26. […] At the bottom of the list, of course, we see David Wright and Curtis Granderson. We discussed some of Wright’s struggles with plate discipline last week (Mangan, Aug. 26). Although he’s shown some signs of life recently, Wright has struggled mightily overall. Granderson has been even worse, turning in a negative performance on both sides of the ball. I wrote in the offseason that I did not like the Granderson contract, but it looks like it may turn out even worse than my pessimistic view (I forecasted that Granderson would hit 240 with 22 HR). […]

  27. […] December 6, 2013 – The Granderson Signing Isn’t Jason Bay, But It Ain’t Good Eith… […]

  28. […] [Read also: Read Zone’s prediction that Granderson signing was a mistake for Mets] […]

  29. Hi there to every body, it’s my first visit of this web site; this weblog includes amazing
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  30. […] was the most pessimistic about Curtis Granderson, predicting he would hit only .240 with 22 HR and post 2.5 WAR. He actually hit .227 with 20 HR […]

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