Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Granderson Pursuit: Why Bringing in the Star Center Fielder Makes Sense

The power-hitting lefty is a Chicago Native

  Make no mistake, 2013 was an absolutely dismal season on the South Side. A club that saw their team in first place for 117 days in 2012, spent an almost equal amount of time at the bottom of the AL Central just a season later. What caused the change? A serious drop off in defense and fundamentals, key components of a winning ball club. The offense was also absent for most of the season, with Dayan Viciedo regressing, Tyler Flowers imploding in his freshman season, and age catching up to middle of the order mainstay Paul Konerko. The White Sox were able to free up some cash, swapping veterans Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain mid season for a fleet of young prospects. 
  It's no secret that the White Sox have multiple holes to fill this offseason, most notably in the areas of catcher, third base, and the outfield. Avisail Garcia is a lock for an outfield spot in 2014. The gem of the three-team Jake Peavy trade, Garcia hit .304 with 5 home runs in just 42 games with the White Sox last season. Garcia is only 22, and is expected to be a cornerstone of the line-up for years to come. In left field, Dayan Viciedo had an underwhelming season, showing poor defense and experiencing a regression in his hitting abilities. Nonetheless, the White Sox are likely to go with Viciedo again in 2014, hoping that the young Cuban can regain his 2012 form, in which he hit 25 home runs. 
  That leaves center fielder Alejandro De Aza, who is arbitration eligible. The Sox have multiple options with De Aza. They can tender him a contract and trade him or give him another shot in a starting role. De Aza was actually competent in the lead off spot last year, hitting .264 with 17 home runs. However, he was a liability defensively, abysmal on the base paths, and prone to strikeouts. There are no ready replacements in the minor leagues, which means to upgrade the outfield, the White Sox will have to do so via trade or free agency. General Manager Rick Hahn is wary of any short term fix, and wants to construct a team capable of sustained success.
  Since early October the name Curtis Granderson has been tossed around as a potential target. The 33 year-old slugger doesn't seem to fit the description Hahn has been advertising, but the free agent outfielder has a few enticing qualities. He is a Chicago native, and a left-handed hitter. The White Sox are in desperate need of a lefty to balance out a right-handed heavy batting order. Granderson is coming off a down year in which he only hit .229 after being plagued by injuries for a majority of the season. This decline in production should somewhat lower Granderson's price tag, which will probably still come in at around $45 million over three years. Granderson has major pop in the bat, as he hit over 40 home runs in both 2011 and 2012. Of course, the short dimensions of Yankee Stadium's right field were partially a factor, but it's not as if U.S. Cellular isn't a hitter's park. 
  In this period of retooling, the White Sox will be showcasing a variety of young talent in new first baseman Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, and ace Chris Sale, but they will potentially be losing the face of the franchise in Paul Konerko. Regardless of whether or not Konerko returns for 2014, the White Sox need a veteran to be an example as the youth-movement emerges. Granderson is savy with the media, and could very well serve as a bridge between the organization and a fan base that is to put it lightly not too pleased with the on-field product. The money isn't the major turnoff with Granderson, it is the $14.1 million qualifying offer he received from the Yankees. By declining the offer, the Yankees will receive a compensatory draft pick from the team that inks Granderson. With the 3rd pick overall, the White Sox's first round pick will be protected. By signing the center fielder, they would have to give up their second round pick, which is less than appealing considering the organization's depleted farm system. Overall, sacrificing a second round pick for Granderson is a small price to pay when in reality he could be flipped at the deadline for an even greater prospect return if things are still sour in 2014.