Four years ago, the Tigers shocked their fanbase by trading their exciting, young centerfielder to the New York Yankees for an unproven prospect and a lefty reliever. Yesterday, Curtis Granderson officially became a free agent. Would the Tigers be interested in bringing Granderson back for a second tour of duty?
Who is he?
Curtis Granderson needs no introduction to this fanbase. He debuted with a September cup of coffee in 2004, then was the full-time starter during the team's resurgent 2006 season. However, he is best known in Detroit for his legendary 2007 season, when he joined the 20/20/20/20 club with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 home runs, and 26 stolen bases. He is just one of four players in MLB history to accomplish the feat. He developed a power stroke in New York, hitting 84 home runs in 2011 and 2012.
Why should we care?
Because despite any and all concerns posed about Granderson -- he dropped off in 2012, he can't hit lefties -- there are other options on the market that are worse off than him. Speaking towards the first concern, Granderson posted an .829 OPS in a Yankees uniform compared to .828 with the Tigers. His 2012 OPS, .811, was the fourth-highest figure of his career -- though his on-base percentage did diminish to an unsightly .319. However, he maintained a walk rate above 10% in each of his four seasons in New York.
Meanwhile, those worried about Granderson's splits against left-handed hitters should double check the statistics. Sure, Granderson's career .295 on-base percentage and .704 OPS against leftties aren't pretty, but that OPS is actually higher than Shin-Soo Choo's career .680 OPS against southpaws. Choo's on-base percentage is higher, but Granderson hits for more power, slugging .409.
Why should we stay away?
There's a decent chance that Granderson won't even be a true free agent. The Yankees will likely extend him a qualifying offer, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Granderson accept the offer in attempt to boost his stock after an injury-plagued 2013 season. If he chooses to decline the offer, the Tigers would be forced to give up their first round pick in next season's draft in order to sign him. This will likely be the case with the other free agents we have profiled already, but with Granderson we're starting to dip into "Is he really worth it?" territory.
Additionally, it's worth wondering if the short porch in Yankee Stadium's right field changed his swing. After striking out in 21.3% of his plate appearances in a Tigers uniform, his strikeout rate rose to 25.6% with the Yankees. His K-rate increased in each of his full seasons in New York, topping out at 28.5% in 2012. He saw a similar jump in ISO, but it's tough to say how that power will translate from Yankee Stadium to Comerica Park.
Will he end up in Detroit?
Unlike some, I don't hate the homecoming idea. Granderson would offer both power and speed from a corner outfield spot, and has the ability to play center if Jackson takes another trip to the disabled list next season. He may come at a bit of a discounted rate due to last season's injuries, and you have to think he would welcome a return to Detroit if there were a reasonable offer on the table.