Late Friday night, the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers improved their team even further by adding outfielder Curtis Granderson in a trade with the New York Mets. . , if you're unfamiliar with the trade waivers process.
At 86-34 -- 86-34! -- the Dodgers have by far the best record in baseball right now. The second best team, the Houston Astros, is 75-47 and 12 games back of Los Angeles. Amazing. And yet, even though they're good enough to win the World Series as it is, the Dodgers still went out and added a quality player in mid August. They're not messing around.
There are three different sides to Friday night's Granderson trade, so let's break them down, shall we?
At first glance, it's difficult to see how Granderson fits with the Dodgers. They have Yasiel Puig in right field and Joc Pederson in center. Chris Taylor has been playing left field much of the season, but with Adrian Gonzalez returning from the disabled list this week, Cody Bellinger will see time in the outfield as well. There's no DH in the NL and the Dodgers already have four outfielders for three spots, not including platoon bat Enrique Hernandez and the rehabbing Andre Ethier.
And yet, squeezing Granderson into the lineup won't be all that difficult. For starters, Pederson has struggled mightily the last few weeks, so much so that manager Dave Roberts has to consider cutting back on his playing time. Pederson is hitting .178/.282/.356 in 34 games since July 1 and .116/.218/.261 in 26 games since July 26. He's going to find himself on the bench more often down the stretch, opening at-bats for Granderson.
Secondly, Taylor is versatile and will be able to remain in the lineup at second base. Logan Forsythe has drawn a ton of walks but provided little impact in terms of hits and extra base hits this year (.247/.371/.332), and Chase Utley fits best as a pesky bat off the bench at this point of his career, not as an everyday player. Playing Taylor, a natural shortstop, at second base opens up outfield playing time for Granderson.
And third, Gonzalez is just returning from a pretty serious back injury, so he's not going to play every single day. Bellinger is still going to see plenty of time at first base, meaning he won't complicate the outfield picture that much. The Dodgers could employ these starting alignments going forward:
That leaves Pederson on the bench, though he'll still get at-bats as a pinch-hitter and in spot starts. The Dodgers have such a huge lead that they're going to spend September in "rest and audition" mode. They're going to make sure the starters get as much rest as necessary to heal all those bumps and bruises, and audition players for postseason roster spots. Pederson, right now, is auditioning. They're going to get him in the lineup to see if he can turn it around.
The Dodgers could also decide to play Granderson in right field and Peterson in center along if they want to keep Bellinger in left field. The rookie did see a fair bit of time in center field in the minors, so he wouldn't be going into the position completely inexperienced if their normal alignment against righties puts him in center.
There's also this: injuries happen. They are an unfortunate part of baseball. For the Dodgers, the Granderson trade was about adding a quality player -- Granderson started terribly this season, but is hitting .263/.383/.570 with 18 home runs in 88 games since May 1 -- and adding more depth to the deepest organization in baseball. Simply put, the Dodgers would rather have Granderson and not need him than need him and not have him.
At this point, maybe we start referring to Mets trades as "sales" rather than "trades." The Granderson trade was another salary dump for the Mets, after they'd salary dumped Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda as well. All three are quality veteran players who were shipped off for salary relief and minimal prospect return. The approximate savings:
- Granderson: $4 million
- Bruce: $4 million
- Duda: $2.6 million
The Mets also traded Addison Reed and unloaded the $2.6 million or so remaining on his contract, though they did receive three pitching prospects in that trade. It wasn't a straight salary dump like the other moves. And on Saturday, the Mets let Rene Rivera go to the Chicago Cubs on a trade waiver claim, freeing up another $450,000 or so in payroll.
All told, the Mets saved roughly $13.6 million in 2017 payroll with their four trades. That money is not, however, necessarily going to be pumped back into the team next year. General manager Sandy Alderson indicated to reporters earlier this week, before the Granderson trade and Rivera claim, his plan coming into the season was go for it, and if it didn't work out, he promised ownership he's shed as much salary as possible.
Alderson says the roughly $9 million the Mets saved via trades is not "earmarked" for next season. But he believes payroll will be flexible.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) August 16, 2017
Re: payroll, Alderson implied he persuaded ownership to go over budget this season, with the intention of shedding $ if team didn't contend.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) August 16, 2017
The Mets have been notoriously cash-strapped the last few years -- the Mets, in baseball's largest market, Amazin' Avenue has a great primer of the Wilpon-Madoff situation.)-- as a result of ownership getting caught up in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme. The Wilpons invested hundreds of millions with Madoff and have since borrowed hundreds of millions against the Mets and their television network to cover their debt. All that debt has limited their spending. (
For all intents and purposes, the Mets have spent the last few weeks salary dumping their impending free agent veterans, and there's no guarantee that money will be put back into the team next season. They didn't even net a significant prospect return either. That's pretty much the worst case scenario.
Every other contender
How did every other contender allow Granderson to get to the Dodgers? So many teams could've used him. Sooo many teams.
A quick recap of the contenders with the need for another bat and/or outfielder:
- Boston Red Sox: Mitch Moreland hasn't hit much since mid-June and Hanley Ramirez has been seeing more and more time at first base, opening up DH at-bats.
- Milwaukee Brewers: Keon Broxton hasn't hit much since late June and Lewis Brinson is currently on the disabled list. Also, Domingo Santana has had a really tough August.
- Minnesota Twins: Robbie Grossman is on the disabled list.
- New York Yankees: Have an opening at DH with Matt Holliday, who hasn't hit much at all since mid-June, on the disabled list.
- Pittsburgh Pirates: Gregory Polanco is on the disabled list.
- Seattle Mariners: Mitch Haniger is on the disabled list and Ben Gamel has struggled since the All-Star break.
- Washington Nationals: They have five outfielders on the disabled list (Adam Eaton, Brian Goodwin, Bryce Harper, Michael Taylor, Jayson Werth).
Perhaps the Yankees never really had a chance at Granderson. The other teams though? I'm not sure what their excuse is. Granderson went unclaimed on trade waivers, meaning any team could have backed the Mets into a corner with a claim, but didn't. Make a claim and the Mets have three choices: trade Granderson to the claiming team, dump Granderson and his contract on the claiming team as a waiver claim, or pull him back and keep him. It blocks him from going elsewhere.
I suppose the risk of having the $4 million or so remaining on Granderson's contract dumped on you as a waiver claim is too great for the smaller market teams like the Brewers, Twins, and Pirates. The Red Sox, Yankees, and Nationals though? Shouldn't be an issue when you're trying to win a World Series. Washington especially. I know they have a huge division lead and expect all their outfielders to come back healthy, but why not bring in a quality contingency plan like Granderson as insurance? That's essentially what the Dodgers did. Bring in Granderson as depth and as an insurance policy.
Long story short, the first-place Dodgers added yet another solid player and the Mets continued to late season salary purge while every other contender sat and watched. Granderson has his flaws, no doubt -- he struggles against lefties and is prone to striking out -- but he also brings power, a strong postseason track record, and Grade-A clubhouse chops to the table. He's the kind of piece every contender should be looking to add to their roster for the stretch run.
Ultimately, it was the already loaded Dodgers who stepped up and acquired him.