On the heels of the Oakland Athletics acquiring every under-the-radar player in the major leagues, the equally frugal New York Mets signed free-agent Curtis Granderson to a risky four-year, $60 million deal. The risk is three-fold: Granderson only accumulated 245 plate appearances in 2013, has already begun to noticeably decline, and owns a career .704 OPS versus left-handed pitching.
Even with his downfalls, however, Granderson stands to be a massive upgrade for the Mets. If not for the resurgence of Marlon Byrd in 2013, the Mets’ outfield might not have passed muster in the California Penal League. But jubilation for the Mets actually spending money aside, if the team's offseason focus was to add a two-win player, they should have instead coveted Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock.
Similar to recent Athletics' acquisition Craig Gentry, Pollock pairs elite defense with solid offense to form what could be a very good, full-time ballplayer. And while Pollock isn't the speedster or on-base machine Gentry is, according to FoxSports’s Ken Rosenthal, the Athletics were interested in the 26-year-old before netting Gentry.
It’s difficult to project what Pollock could produce in 2014 as the 2013 season was the right-handed hitter’s first full year in the majors. But from what Pollock displayed this past season, his 2014 and beyond could be exciting.
Pollock posted a park-adjusted 100 OPS+ with eight home runs, 12 stolen bases, and a 6.8 percent walk rate. In addition, as mentioned, Pollock’s biggest asset is his defense. According to all mainstream advanced defensive metrics, the Connecticut native’s glove was great in center field.
Overall, Pollock’s 2013 season was worth 3.6 fWAR. And with a projected 2.2 fWAR for 2014 per Steamer, the Diamondbacks’ outfielder has the same projected value as none other than Curtis Granderson. The only difference is that Pollock is six years Granderson’s junior and won’t be a free agent until 2019.
More importantly, however, Pollock has a greater potential to be worth more than Granderson from 2015 to 2017. As ESPN Insider’s Keith Law pointed out in his reaction piece, "counting on Granderson beyond this next season means believing he's not going to show any substantial decline in his age 34 through 36 seasons, which is probably not realistic […]."
Granderson’s projected WAR from 2015 to 2017 concurs with Law’s sentiments. Borrowing from Tom Tango’s WAR-loss assumption that players over 32 lose 0.7 WAR per year on average, Granderson could witness a steep decline after his first season with the Mets.
||2015 fWAR||2016 fWAR||2017 fWAR|
That’s a total of 4.6 fWAR over the length of his contract and just 2.4 fWAR in his latter three years.
According to FanGraphs, there were 36 outfielders worth two-plus wins in 2013. Essentially, players like Granderson—unlike Robinson Cano, for instance—are not exactly rare commodities. Based on that, one has to wonder why Sandy Alderson would make such a significant free-agent investment in Granderson as opposed to acquiring a two-win outfielder via trade.
Had the Mets targeted A.J. Pollock—or Dexter Fowler, Lorenzo Cain, Will Venable or Craig Gentry, for that matter—the organization would have enjoyed a team-controllable asset for well under $15 million per season and through the supposed competitive years, too.
The Mets' decision to ink Curtis Granderson as opposed to acquiring a Pollock-type could have a deeper and more unfortunate significance; that the organization has a delusion about Granderson’s future skillset. If the Mets believe the 32-year-old Grandy Man could still produce an elite WAR and provide much-needed protection for David Wright, the team might be in for a rude awakening over the next four seasons.