MLB: New York Mets at Milwaukee Brewers

The Understated Greatness of Curtis Granderson

The free agent market is naturally tough in terms of player value. The idea that ballclubs end up paying the top names for their contributions to past teams is not groundbreaking. (For a perfect example, look no further than the Angels paying Albert Pujols forever and a day for the value he gave the Cardinals.) So when a player comes along who actually lives up to the contract, it is certainly worth noting.

Sandy Alderson and the Mets made a smart move when they signed Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract in the 2013-14 off-season. At the time, the reviews were mixed as Granderson was coming off an injury-plagued season with the Yankees, and even in a 43-homer 2012 his OBP dipped to .280 in the second half with 96 strikeouts in 75 games. Committing $60 million for a soon-to-be 33-year-old was a risky endeavor.

However, the doubters underestimated Granderson’s ability to be a consistent force at the plate. It was not as though he was brittle in 2013; he was just drilled twice in inopportune places. Citi Field did somewhat contain his Yankee Stadium-enhanced power, but that didn’t mean it completely vanished. Granderson simply turned some of those homers into productive doubles. He almost struck out 200 times in 2012 but worked hard to cut down on the whiffs, too—his strikeout rate as a Met is 22.1 percent compared to 28.4 percent between 2012 and 2013.

After a solid debut in 2014 with a .275 True Average and 20 homers to accompany a .227/.326/.388 line, Granderson really earned his coin in 2015. He found his niche as the Mets’ powerful sparkplug, setting a franchise record for leadoff homers in a single season. Granderson increased his power output to 26 bombs and improved his overall game with a .259/.364/.457 triple slash. He threw in 33 doubles, a .314 TAv, and 5.5 WARP, too. He flew under the radar thanks to the gaudier names around him, but he more than filled his role.

Playoff performance usually doesn’t make or break a deal, but it can help. Granderson undoubtedly added vital bonus value to his contract in the 2015 playoffs. He hit .283/.375/.491 in the three rounds as the Mets romped to the National League pennant. Those memories aren’t going to fade from the minds of Mets fans. The team did not lose the World Series because of Granderson, who hit three homers off the Royals’ pitching staff, including a leadoff shot in the decisive Game 5:

Now the Mets are over the halfway point of the Granderson contract. A slow start to 2016 did temper expectations, as he had a .686 OPS as recently as May 20th despite seven homers. Since then though, Granderson seems to have recovered, batting .267/.378/.560 in 20 games, lifting his TAv on the season to a far better .280.

As long as Granderson maintains his health and keeps his offensive production around that level for the duration of 2016, then Alderson and the Mets will be pretty happy. Even if his walk year of 2017 presents a drop-off in value, they will have reaped enough from his efforts to make him worth the overall cost anyway. As Sara Novic wrote in April, the fact that he is a model citizen only makes him more enjoyable.

Sixty million dollars might be a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of MLB free agent contracts these days, it is not bad at all. In the same off-season Granderson was signed, the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury a seven-year, $153 million deal and the Rangers inked Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million contract. Granderson has been healthier and a more steady presence at the plate than either of them, and he’s only under contract for one more year. The lone possible outfielder who would have been better was Nelson Cruz, and his mid-thirties power surge was not exactly predictable.

The Mets’ outfield mix might sometimes seem crowded when all of Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Juan Lagares are healthy. It was even more flooded last year with Michael Cuddyer received regular reps, too. Regardless, it is tough to imagine this team being nearly as potent without Granderson’s bat in the lineup. The contract is not a headache at all and he’s a boon for the offense. Hopefully the good times will continue, but even if he slumps, Granderson was a tremendous addition.

Photo Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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