There is no secret that the Orioles really need to find a right fielder for the 2017 season. It’s also not a secret that the free agent market for outfielders is not full of inspiring names, especially with two of the bargain-priced options already snatched off the board.
If they can’t get their hands on any kind of quality free agent and they don’t want to roll with Joey Rickard as the Opening Day starting right fielder (please don’t let them do this,) then they’re going to have to trade for an outfielder who somebody doesn’t want any more.
We can forget about the Orioles trying to get Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates. He’s the most high-profile name available and would be the biggest swing-for-the-fences kind of trade. That would take prospects to pull off. The Orioles farm system isn’t good. It’s not happening. Too bad, probably.
There are other teams with outfielders they seem to be looking to move. One such team is the Mets, who, now that they’ve re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, have more outfielders than they know what to do with.
Both Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce fit what the Orioles say they’re looking for: a left-handed hitting outfielder. Both have chiefly played right field in recent years. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Orioles “seem to have interest” about Granderson, but not in Bruce.
Fellow Camden Chatter Alex Conway covered all the reasons why the Orioles shouldn’t be interested in Bruce earlier in the week. I’m sure he’s smiling about this rumor. Simply put, you don’t want the Orioles to get a guy whose OBP the past three seasons is below .300, whose defensive numbers are poor, and who will cost $13 million.
Although Granderson is older - he’ll be 36 next Opening Day - and will cost $15 million next season, the idea of the O’s exploring a trade for him is a bit more palatable. His recent performance suggests that he could represent a good balance between offense and defense from the right field position.
The Mets need to ditch one of those high-priced outfielders from their books, so maybe the price would not be exorbitant to get Granderson. The O’s have to hope it wouldn’t be, because as mentioned already, if it’ll take a big prospect, they don’t have one to spare. But it probably shouldn’t. It’s just one year, it’s for a good bit of money, and the Mets need to do it.
So unlike with McCutchen, it’s actually worth entertaining the question: Should the Orioles try to trade for Granderson?
You can find a lot to like if you glance over his page on Baseball Reference or Fangraphs. In the three years since he’s signed with the Mets, Granderson has played in at least 150 games each season and has batted a combined .241/.342/.436.
If you want to weight his most recent season the most, Granderson hit 30 home runs while batting .237/.335/.464. And Oriole Park at Camden Yards, you might have heard, is friendly to left-handed power.
That’s not an overwhelmingly good batting average, but any time you look at a guy’s slash line and you see that the OBP is 100 points more than the average, you know that’s a guy who actually takes some walks. A .335 OBP would have been second on the 2016 O’s among players with 400 or more plate appearances, trailing only Manny Machado’s .343.
When it comes to defense, the standard line is that you have to look at three years worth of data. That’s how long Granderson has been manning right field for the Mets. In Defensive Runs Saved, his past three seasons have gone like this: -2, +12, +2.
Broken down into its components, Granderson’s range has been solid and his arm is occasionally a liability. If he doesn’t lose his ability to patrol right field between now and April, he’d be a good guy to stick out there without requiring a big commitment in years or dollars. He’d be off the books again in a year.
There’s still risk. There’s always risk. They could make a trade and give up a decent prospect and have Granderson get a fluke injury almost immediately. Or they could make a trade and Granderson could stink for the first time in his whole career. Wouldn’t that just be so Orioles?
A not-fun question to ask is: Can the Orioles absorb that $15 million? That’s not an outrageous price for a guy who’s been a 2.5+ WAR player for eight of the past ten years, but it still might be more than the O’s can add on to their payroll - already at $153 million. They might have to give up a better prospect to get the Mets to eat some of the salary, or they might resort to a later bad salary dump trade.
The standard rule remains: Probably nothing will happen. You have to go a long way from a tweet that says the Orioles “seem to have interest” in Granderson to there actually being a trade involving the Orioles and Granderson. But hey, it’s enough to be worth thinking about it, and if this somehow does happen, there’s a good bit to like. What do you think?