White Sox Courting Curtis?
By Matt Adams
So the White Sox are interested in signing Curtis Granderson, eh? Seems predictable.
Kenny Williams coveted Granderson at one point in time, and he’s shown a willingness to go get players he likes regardless of how many years have passed. Does Granderson returning to his hometown make any sense?
Let’s get something out of the way: money matters. I don’t know exactly where to draw the line, but a line exists. On one side of it I’m all for the White Sox acquiring him, it makes sense. He provides leadership and it improves the team on the field. What it could also do is defer funds better spent elsewhere. How much Granderson wants to earn is a big part of making such a play.
In 2011 he finished fourth in AL MVP voting. That feat activated a clause in his contract that elevated the price of his 2013 option from $13M to $15M. It was a steadily escalating contract, backloaded, to use the parlance of our times. He basically averaged a $3M raise each year in the six years he was inked. Most folks are looking for raises when changing employers and there’s a good chance Granderson shares this sentiment. A serious hometown discount is going to be needed for the soon to be 33 year-old to sign in Chicago without fan backlash about spending money for the sake of spending money. Alex Rios would have been getting $12.5M of the Chairman’s money had he not been shipped off to Texas. To me that makes an absolute ceiling for Granderson’s payout, but even that amount may still be unwise if it, say, cripples the chances of acquiring Jose Daniel Abreu.
Would a return to Chicago make sense for Granderson? (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Is Granderson better than Rios? Is he better than the other outfield options that would be taking at-bats should he not sign? Yes and yes. Last season was a bit of a lost one for Granderson, having had to deal with two freak injuries after being hit by pitches. In just short of 250 plate appearances he coughed up a .229/.317/.407 line, production not that far off what can be expected generally from Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza.
Nobody owes Viciedo or De Aza any more MLB at-bats. Viciedo is not yet a lost cost, but it’s at the point where your waiting is more and more likely to be in vain with each back-wrenching strikeout. Alejandro is certainly playable, but his numbers are trending in the wrong direction and a crash could very well be in his future. On the other hand, Granderson’s numbers suggest a healthy year would yield healthy numbers. An OPS north of .800 would not be a stretch and if he approached that it would exceed anything a 2013 White Sox hitter had to offer. The only thing looking good for each of the incumbents in this situation is their age, but that only becomes a large issue if the Sox are entertaining a long-term commitment to Granderson.
The White Sox have spent some time building a reputation. It’s a very Kenny Williams-driven reputation, but even with Hahn at the helm they’ve yet to free themselves of it. The previously mentioned ‘once-coveted veteran finally achieved’ is a part of it. The other more recently obvious part is the love of a high-strikeout hitter. Curtis Granderson does nothing to help out the high K rate of the White Sox, having once K’d a Dunnian 195 times in a single season.
What does this say about a rebuild? Are they rebuilding if they go grab an outfielder off on the free agent market? Contrary to popular belief, rebuilding teams are not required to exclusively carry players under the age of the 30. In fact, veteran presences are almost always part of the mix. It’s the failure to compete that makes a team a rebuilding one. Even the Astros carried a 35 year-old Carlos Pena to start the year in 2013, and he’s awful to boot. One could argue that another season for Adam Dunn’s contract to disappear and the rebuild is in full effect since that would drop team salary a great deal lower than it already is, which is set to be lower than it’s been in recent years. That is, unless a bunch of money is thrown at another aging veteran. So back to where we were: the money matters.
Curtis Granderson on the White Sox would be filling a hole. Just not the deepest hole.