(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)
During the spring, the Red Sox have been universally praised for opening up their checkbook in the offseason. Not only did the team acquire slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in a trade with the Padres, but intrepid GM Theo Epstein then blew all other suitors out of the water in his pursuit of Carl Crawford.
The last time the Yankees went on a similar shopping spree (the 2009 offseason acquisitions of A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira), the team wasn’t exactly lauded for its excess. The Yankees have long been a popular target for resentment, so the backlash wasn’t unexpected. The real irony, however, stems from the criticism GM Brian Cashman has received because didn’t make a big splash this offseason. In this regard, the team really is the Damn Yankees: they are damned when they spend, and damned when they don’t.
Based on the relative offseason activity (or inactivity in the Yankees’ case) of the two rivals, most “experts” have all but handed the division to the Red Sox. In fact, in his latest attempt to explain why he went to Philadelphia, Cliff Lee even cited Boston’s improvements as a deterrent to signing in New York. Of course, what Lee and so many others seem to be ignoring is the Yankees didn’t need either Gonzalez or Crawford because they already possessed comparable talent.
The comparison between Gonzalez and Teixeira is an easy one. Both players are slick fielding, power hitting first basemen who are widely regarded as cornerstone clubhouse guys. In other words, they are the type of player around whom you can build a championship. Not surprisingly, their statistics are also very similar. Over the last five seasons, Teixeira’s wOBA of .391 has been a tick better than Gonzalez’ rate of .373, but all things considered, it’s hard to give one player an advantage over the other.Another similar, albeit more subtle, comparison exists between the Yankees and Red Sox. Consider the following breakdown.
Mystery Player Comparison, 2005-2010
|Player A||Player B|
Note: Salary refers to the average amount of guaranteed money owed.
Source: fangraphs.com and (*)baseball-reference.com
Considering the topic of this post, it shouldn’t have been too hard to determine that Crawford (Player A) and Curtis Granderson (Player B) are the two players compared above. If not for the preface, however, I wonder how many people would have guessed how similarly each player has performed since Granderson (who is celebrating his 30th birthday today) became an everyday player in 2005?
The comparisons are so similar that only two figures really jump off the page. The first is stolen bases, which significantly favors Crawford, although it should be noted that both players enjoy an over 80% success rate, so some of the difference may be more about opportunity and philosophy than ability. The second figure that stands out is annual guaranteed salary. While the Red Sox are committed to paying Crawford over $20 million per year through his age-35 season, the Yankees only owe Granderson $10 million over the next two seasons (the team has a club option for 2013 that starts at $13 million, but could rise to $15 million if certain incentives are met). In other words, the Yankees could wind up getting the exact same production from Granderson at half the price.
The point of this exercise isn’t to denigrate Crawford or make light of the Red Sox acquisition of him. To the contrary, Granderson’s favorable comparison to Crawford illustrates just how good the deal Brian Cashman made last offseason was. Even though he had to surrender talent like Ian Kennedy and Austin Jackson, players like Granderson don’t come on the market very often. And, when they do, the cost tends to be prohibitive.
The Yankees obviously could use another starting pitcher, but their already talented roster still positions them as a prime contender to win the AL East. The Red Sox may have jumped ahead on the strength of their new acquisitions, but if so, it isn’t by very much. Sometimes we tend to overrate the shiny new toy, but ultimately, the best gifts are the tried-and-true one that always seem to keep on giving.