Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hot Stove Update: The Bronx is Burning

Granderson stayed in New York but defected to the Mets
It was a busy week in baseball for the two New York teams, both of whom did their part to stoke the Hot Stove's proverbial flame. Most notably, Jacoby Ellsbury came to town just before Robinson Cano skipped out, but there were a few other moves that went down as well.

Mets sign Curtis Granderson for four years, $60 million
I'm pretty surprised Grandy Man didn't have to settle for a one-year contract somewhere to re-establish his value after an injury-marred 2013 in which he played just 61 games and posted his worst OPS since his 2004 debut. Then again, he's just one season removed from a 43 homer campaign. Still, if I'm a Mets fan I don't love this deal. Age--he'll be 33 at the start of the contract--is a concern, but what's more troubling is how Yankee Stadium turned Granderson into an all-or-nothing hitter. In 2012 he batted .232 and fanned 195 times, whiffing in 28.5 percent of his plate appearances. The trend continued last year with his .229 batting average (a new career low) and 28.1 K%. I see more low batting averages and high strikeout rates in his future, but far fewer home runs without a short porch in right to aid him. Furthermore, he's a poor defensive center fielder who should be shifted to a corner spot.

Yankees sign Carlos Beltran for three years, $45 million
Beltran makes his return to the Big Apple after spending six and a half seasons with the Mets from 2005 through 2011. The Yankees were hot on Beltran's tail in the winter of 2005, only to see him sign with the Mets for $119 million. At the time, he was widely regarded as one of baseball's most talented players, a Gold Glove center fielder with 40/40 potential. Now he's a 36 year-old corner corner outfielder/DH with creaky knees and zero speed. He can still hit a bit, as he proved with St. Louis, and his power should translate well to Yankee Stadium. At this stage in his career he's more of a 2-3 win type of player than the 5-6 win beast he was in his prime, but that's still a significant upgrade over what Ichiro Suzuki is these days.

Yankees bring back Hiroki Kuroda for one year, $16 million
This ends the speculation that Kuroda would retire or return to Japan to pitch in the NPB. He emerged as the Yankees ace last season in what was a down year for CC Sabathia. Kuroda was tremendous for most of the season before fading down the stretch, going 0-6 with a 6.56 ERA over his final eight starts as opponents walloped him to the tune of .316/.364/.551. Was it just a bad stretch by an otherwise excellent pitcher? Or was that the beginning of the end for the soon-to-be 39 year-old? The Yankees are gambling $16 million to find out if he has anything left in the tank.

Kelly Johnson signs with Yankees for one year, $3 million
New York nabbed Johnson as an insurance policy in case Cano signed elsewhere, and good thing they did. Johnson's not an everyday second baseman anymore, not after batting .226/.307/.395 in the last three years combined, but he's still a solid platoon option against righties with decent pop (16 homers in each of the past two seasons). He can't hold a candle to Cano, but then again few players can.

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