Who is the #1 Priority in 2014 – Cano or Granderson?

Cano connects for Granny in ALDS (Getty Images)

Since the signing of the new Collective bargaining Agreement, Yankee fans have been inundated with articles and talk about the team’s desire to get under the Luxury Tax threshold in 2014.  Hal Steinbrenner & Brian Cashman have stated they have every intention to get under $189 Million in 2014 and that they can still field a Championship team.  However to do so, the team won’t have the ability to re-sign all of their players when they become Free Agents and tough decisions will have to be made.

Those decisions will start after this season as Russell Martin and Nick Swisher hit Free Agency and will really get tough after the 2013 season.  That is when Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain & Boone Logan will be looking for new contracts.  With so many players reaching FA and so many different variables to consider it’s impossible to know what decisions will have to be made.  However for the purpose of this article, let’s look at the 2 most important players – Cano & Granderson.

It’s certainly possible that both players can be retained if some of the young pitchers reach their potential and the Yanks refrain from any other high-priced signings.  However, it could conceivably come down to a decision after 2013 of which important lefty masher they need most. If that’s the dilemma, who would you retain to be the leader of your offense going forward?

Robinson Cano

Cano, will be entering his age 31 season in 2014 and should be looking at plenty of still productive seasons remaining. By almost any metric used, Cano has clearly emerged as one of the Top 5 hitters in the American League over the last 3 years.   Since 2009, he has hit .314/.361/.529  and averaged  27 HRs – 104 RBI – 103 Runs for a .378 woba.  Despite an unflattering UZR, he is an excellent defensive 2B. His range is solid and his arm strength and ability to turn the double play are as good as anyone in MLB.

He is one of the most durable players in baseball having played more games over the last 5 years than anyone in MLB.  The fact that he is finally moving into a premium slot in the order will boost his production since he’ll have more PAs, more opportunities to drive in runs and better protection with ARod & Tex hitting behind him as oppossed to Jorge Posada or Nick Swisher.  Not to disparage those hitters but pitchers were not giving into Cano with Posada on deck.

The only weakness in Cano’s game is his plate discipline.  He swings at too many pitches out of the strike zone and doesn’t like to take the base on balls.  I like the fact that Cano is aggressive and goes up to the plate looking to get a hit rather than walk.  The Yanks have enough patient hitters and need someone to go up their to drive the ball, however, Robbie needs to just lay off the pitch he can’t handle to raise his game up another notch.

Who says Granderson isn't gritty? (Getty Images)

Curtis Granderson

Granderson is a full 2 years older than Cano so will turn 33 before the 2014 season.  He’s hit .253/.339/.492 over the last 3 years while averaging 32 HRs – 85 RBIs – 101 Rs – 19 SBs.  While those numbers are good, he’s been much better since August 2010 when Kevin Long helped him adjust his swing.  Since then he has led MLB in HRs, RBIs & Runs as he has finally learned to hit LHP.

He’s not the most natural of players in CF but he has excellent agility and athleticism which enables him to make plays despite getting poor reads off the bat.  His angles to the ball are also not good but he makes the plays he needs to and has a solid and accurate arm.  Overall, he’s above average in CF and an excellent baserunner with the ability to steal 20-25 bases per yr.

Granderson’s weaknesses are obvious.  He strikes out a ton (24.5% in 2011) which leads to a lower batting average  in the .250-.265 range.  His strikeouts are an odd thing.  Early in his career he struck out often but lowered it to an acceptable 17.6% in 2008 but has seen it gradually rise every yr since then to 24.5% in 2011 when he whiffed 169 times.  Obviously a little better contact would lead to a higher BA and hopefully it’s an area Curtis will improve on in 2012.

Well, we’ve covered the strengths and weakness of each player so who is more valuable?  They are both dangerous left-handed hitters who play good defense at premium up-the-middle positions.  I believe that Cano is the better overall player and is more important to the team’s future.  He’s a perennial .300+ hitter with 25+ HR power – a combination that is becoming rarer and rarer in today’s game.  He’s a full 2 yrs younger than Grandy and plays a position where his offense is head and shoulders above the pack.  Granderson’s numbers are impressive also but since the Yankees can slide Gardner to CF, they can afford to choose from any OF position to replace Granderson’s production.  Finding someone younger than Curtis may be the way to go rather than invest in a probable 5 year deal for a 33-yr old OF.

The Yanks may be able to keep them both if they are willing to sign Granderson into his mid to late 30’s but that’s not an advisable strategy.  Depending on how you crunch the numbers,it seems the Yanks will have somewhere in the neighborhood of $60Million in 2014 to spend on a starter at C, 2B, 3B/DH, SP & 2 OF spots.  The more of those spots that can be filled with low-priced young players from the farm the better.  That will allow Cashman to sign Cano to a$20-22M per year mega-deal and have enough left to sign at least 1 more high-priced veteran.  IMO, it all starts with Cano though.  He’s one player the Yanks cannot let be a casualty to the $189M obsession.

About fishjam25

Was a 4-yr Pitcher and Communications Major at Seton Hall University in the 90s. His knowledge & opinion of the game comes from his background as a player and ardent lifetime Yankee fan. However, Fishjam also incorporates sabermetrics and statistical support to form a well-rounded view of the game.

Posted on March 9, 2012, in Personal Opinion, Player Analysis, Signing & Trade Speculation, Statistical Analysis and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. sorry my last comment was meant for here. Cano > Granderson any day of the week.

  2. Cano is one of the top 10 players in baseball, he is first priority. Grandy also should be signed if the Yanks want to stay on top.

    • Doug, I like Granderson. I’m just not sure the Yankees are going to commit the dollars and the years (especially the years) to a player who will turn 33 in March of his Free Agency year 2014.
      Add to that, a much younger Ellsbury and Adam Jones could be FA’s that year. I’m just not thinking that Granderson is in the Yankees long term plans in 2014.

      I just can’t see a 37 or 38 year old Granderson manning the OF for the Yankees which is what he’ll be with anything more then a 4 year deal when he hits FA. I just don’t see the Yankees offering Granderson more then 4 years and I don’t see him accepting less.

  3. uyf, once again you are right, Cano is a no brainer to resign but Grandy is just going to be a little too old to resign unless he goes for one year deals like Ortiz is doing with the Sox. Baneulos, Soriano, and Garcia look good today for the Yanks.

  4. Fish – excellent analysis of Cano. We should all be thankful that we get to see a player of very unique talent every day. Players with that natural talent and grace(the swing, the arm, the glove), come along once or twice ar generation. DiMaggio effortlessly chasing fly balls, Mays running the bases, George Brett’s swing, Brooks flashing some leather at third…….watching Cano backhand a grounder over second base and sling it over to first ….pure genius.

  5. What if Cashman backends Cano and Granderson’s contract like the Angels did with Pujols, then the Yanks could stay under the cap for 2014 and increase their salaries when Tex and A-Rod’s contracts are up.

    • What the Angels did and I believe they are the first team to do is this:

      The Angels’ deal was so complicated that it includes three separate agreements: His playing contract, a marketing deal and an agreement to enter a 10-year, personal-services agreement following the playing contract’s expiration or Pujols’ retirement, whichever is later. That will pay $1 million annually, but because it is contingent on Pujols actually working for the team, it is not considered guaranteed money for the purposes of baseball’s luxury tax.

      The Yankees I’m sure will use this tactic in the future.

      • Matt, thanks for the information, maybe the Yanks use this for Grandy.

      • We mentioned the personal contract for Jeter a couple of times last fall. Because we all knew, they were going to give him a longer contract than he should get. Off hand I can’t remember who the player was but he was given a personal contract (I think it was George Brett).
        There have been a couple of others but names escape me once again, sorry!
        The idea wasn’t very well received by most fans…I won’t go into that again!

    • Doug, backloading a players contract does nothing to effect a players or teams luxury tax implications. MLB uses a players AAV to determine their luxury tax.

      Also, “milestone or marketing incentives” such as the one A-Rod has actually has a negative impact on the team. That money that a player reaches all counts in the season he hits the particular milestone. For example if A-Rod reach his “Mays milestone incentive” 660 HR’s this season that entire $6MM will count against this years payroll number for the Yankees. That $6MM is NOT pro-rated over the life of the contract.

      What wouldn’t count is a “personal services” contract like Pujols got from the Angels. That $10MM he earns after his players contract expires in 10 years does NOT count against the luxury because he will not be a player, but rather an employee performing other duties outside those of a player.

      Hopefully that answers your question.

  6. uyf, thanks for the education, Grandy would seem to be the perfect person to get a personal services contract from the Yanks. He is one of the best embassadoes of the game. That might be the angle the Yanks use to keep them both.

  7. I just read on MLB Rumors that Randy Levine said that the Yanks have a plan in place to keep both Cano and Grandy and still stay under the cap.

    • Doug after the debacle by Levine with the Soriano deal. I’d be real careful about listening to what he says about the Yankees/Hal Steinbrenner and Cashmans intentions.

      Besides the Yankees can afford both Cano and Granderson and stay at the $189MM threshold but basically that means there will be NO other high profile, expensive FA’s that the Yankees can sign.

      If we just use a very rough number of $20MM each for both Cano and Granderson when they are FA’s in 2014. The Yankees will have in guaranteed contracts for the 2014 season about:$128MM in just 6 players (A-Rod, CC, Tex, Jeter, Cano and Granderson) add another $10 to $12MM they have to allocate for benefits, etc. that brings the total to $138MM +/- and they still only have 6 players with contracts signed. They have about $50MM left for the rest of the 25 man roster and the balance of the 40 man roster. And they have to decide if they need to allocate the $6MM “milestone incentive” A-Rod could hit in 2014 for reaching the “Babe’s” HR total.

      They certainly can do it. I’ve already posted one roster that has the elements of what they need to do in the way of players. But as I’ve mentioned previously it’s probably not the “raw” dollars that will prevent the signing of Granderson long term it’s his age and years he will accept in a new contract.

      Just food for thought.

      • uyf, as I mentioned before the Yanks could offer Grandy a service contract upton retirement similar to what Pujols got. Grandy is one of the most liked players in the game.

        • Yes, they could but I seriously doubt any “personal services contract” the Yankees would offer him would make up for him accepting a 5th or even 6th year of playing ball for another team.

          Look at it this way say the Yankees offer him $20MM per for 4 years and a 10 year personal services guarantee at $1MM per (which by the way is what the Angels signed Pujols personal services for) after his option year expires. That total comes to $90MM everything (4 years of ball after his option year and a 10 year personal services contract).

          Now Team B (could be anyone) offers him a 5 or better yet a 6 year deal after his option year with the Yankees for $100M +. Which would would you take?

          I think the answer is pretty obvious. Team B’s.

    • Randy is still under the faulty impression he knows baseball. The guy is a very good business man and bean counter but has NO business talking player worth. He goes (like many others) on what the player has done, not what he is doing. The old adage “Go by the back of his card, he’ll be there by seasons end!” BS!

      A 35-37 year old player is not a 31-33 year old player, no matter who he is…I like A-Rod, Tex, Brett, Jeter, Granderson, Cano and the rest of the 40 man team. But I’d be damned if I would have given Jeter or A-Rod the contracts they got from the “Tampa Cabal”, the same goes for Grandy!

      • Good to see you back my friend. I agree with you 110% about Granderson. And about Levine.

        BTW, what happened to the second 7 in your moniker?

        • uyf1950….
          The Yankees have had to put up with the “know nothing” Tampa Cabal for years. I don’t know one contract or trade they have come up with that really was a big help to the team…long run.
          The other 7 was dropped when I had to open a new account, I keep fighting with this Mac and it keeps winning! It has to be Scottish, with a name like “Mac”…we Irish and the Scotts have little love for each other.
          How you doing young fellow? I have read the posts, it looks like Matt, Fishjam, you and Doug are doing just fine…you have made the team, so to speak! 🙂

          • oldyankee, I don’t know about “making the team”. Matt and the rest of the crew always made me feel welcome. As you already know the distractions if I may call it that were due to others.

            If I may. I like Soriano but he was way overpaid by the Yankees. He got $35MM for 3 years plus an opt out year each year. And as you mentioned the Yankees gave up their #1 draft choice. Also keep in mind that he only had 1 breakout year as a closer. That was his walk year. Yes he had decent years with Seattle and Atlanta but he also missed considerable time in the years prior to 2010.

            This is just my opinion, I’m sure others will NOT agree with. But personally I would like to see him opt-out after this season and free up the $14MM he is scheduled to make in 2013. I think that money can be put to much better use. I have no doubt that the Yankees have other in house options to close games when and if Rivera retires.

            • uyf1950…
              I always thought you made the team…so to speak…like; fit right in with most everyone and good give and take. All of you guys have made the threads longer and more informative.
              Just my opinion but, I am always right…er, almost anyhow…well, maybe not!
              Your reply above is a very well done summation of Randy and the guys lack of expertise!
              Did you see the Yankee Magazine bit on A-Rod and how he has taken over as one of the leaders and helping the new kids find their way? I think I said, I like being right…well?

            • uyf, yes Soriano is overpaid, but that doesn’t bother me with the Yanks revenue, at least not untill 2014. Next year will be a tricky year for the Yanks, with Soriano, Swisher, and Martin. I would like all of them back but only short term. There are not too many relief pitchers who are good every year.

              • Doug, that’s probably true about the relief pitchers. But there are even fewer that make $35MM over 3 years to be set-up or 7th inning guy.

                The question I always ask myself would the resources be better utilized somewhere else. I don’t know about you but I have no doubt they would have been, could have been and should been in the case of Soriano. But that’s just my opinion.

                You need look back at only this past winter with all the quality closers that could find jobs. With the exception of Papelbon all signed contracts that I would consider chump change compared to what Soriano is making and will make next season.

                • UYF – Check out the Sherman article I just posted about. Has some interesting concepts about creatively getting around the Luxury Tax in 2014. I remember you once said something about altering ARod’s contract – Sherman offers an idea of how to do it. Let me know what you think.

                • Fishjam, I just read the Post article. It’s intriguing.

                  I like his solution for A-Rod because that saves the Yankees $7.5MM per in the critical years of 2014/2016 during the current MLB CBA. And I think it’s something the A-Rod might certainly entertain. As really the only 2 “milestone incentives” it effects dollar wise are the last 2 (762 and 763 HR’s) and there is certainly no guarantee he will hit those. AND if he doesn’t he actually makes out a little better monetarily wise under Sherman’s proposal by $2MM.

                  As for Cano’s that pretty much is what you have been advocating, basically adding 6 years on to his current contract. As he mentions he’s not sure the players would go for it and in Cano’s case being represented by Boras that’s obviously a consideration. But let’s assume that the player/agent in this case doesn’t have a problem with it. It certainly is doable I’m just not sure it’s worth it save about $2MM+ in luxury tax implications for the years 2014/2019. While increasing the luxury tax implications for 2012 and 2013 from roughly $12MM AAV each of those years to $20MM+ AAV each year.

                  Granderson is very much in the same position as what I just went through with Cano. The numbers are slightly different but the situation is pretty much the same. The issue that I have with Granderson revolve around his age and the position he plays and will be playing in the out years of 2014/2017 extension. When there should be younger and more athletic options available.

                  Just to close if the Yankees are intent in keeping both Cano and Granderson certainly the proposals save the Yankees a few bucks in AAV for 2014 etc… But I do like the A-Rod idea the most.

      • I have to dissagree with you on this one, Soriano was one of the best closers in baseball for the Rays in 2010. The Rays picked him up so that should tell you something. At the time the Yanks were spending like they always have done, offering the most money to players they wanted. Thier is only Mo, we will see that in the coming years.

        • Good day Doug…
          Soriano is a very good RP but, paying him starters money and giving up a draft choice? I don’t think that was the smart move, do you?
          Just because a player is young, has nothing to do with how he will or will not do in the big show! We have a few good players coming along and a few of them are about ready to move up to the show.
          Guys like Granderson, Soriano, Swisher and Martin if given arbitration, will give the Yankees some draft picks. The picks will be higher than the ones we have now. The good point is they don’t all hit the FA market at the same time.
          Just a few things to think about. Have a good one! 🙂

  8. old yankee, Soriano was important last year, with Joba going down their was more need for him as it turned out. The starters last year were on limited innings with Colon and Garcia being older pitchers and Nova and Hughes on the Verducci list and being limited in innings. This hurt CC when the Yanks went to the 6 man rotation. I know Cashman didn’t want Soriano, but I really like the lock down ability of the Yanks in the late innings. One out of 10 draft choices make it anyway, and most of the real blue chip draft choices come in the first 10 to 15 picks in the draft. After that it’s a crap shoot with the top players. Matt Moore was pick #280 in the fourth round, even the Rays missed three times on him, then their’s Beurhle and Piazza. Lastly the young pitchers the Yanks can bring up like Warren, Phelps, and Mitchell don’t compare to Soriano in velocity, location, or ability. I don’t think any of the young pitchers are where Nova or Noesi were last year.

    • Doug…
      No doubt, Soriano was a needed fit last year but, check out his stats to 2010. He had one great year 2010 and 2011 was an ok year. We have players that can step in and do the job right now, why pay for what we already have? I venture to say Sorry will repeat his numbers from last year or better them!
      By mid-year Joba should return as a much better pitcher than he was last year. Having Sorry is nice but not needed, the team has many arms around to choose from.
      Some still believe age is the difference when finding a replacement for an ageing player!
      This is not a fact at all, A-Rod, Jeter, Bernie, Andy along with guys you may have heard of named; Whitey, Mickey, Munson, Ruzzuto and Mo…they all where young players. Why not let the better player play, irregardless of being a rookie or older, they have to show up or get another job.
      Doug, I really like your replys…sharp and to the point. Very good work, opinions, are for everyone. enjoy and have fun. 🙂

  9. Anyone know what Hughes got his fastball up to today? It looks like he ad a very good outing overall, I’m just curious about his fastball speed.

  10. Watching the games the last few days, the Yankee pitching is solid.

  11. Rapada reminds me of Randy Choate, he is tough on leftys.

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