In December 2009, the New York Yankees, fresh off their 27th World Series Championship, made a move that is still greatly impacting them at the moment. New York traded for the then-Detroit Tiger outfielder Curtis Granderson. Granderson was considered a very solid hitter who could cover a lot of estate in the Comerica outfield. Back in 2009 the trade made sense for the Yankees. However, now we realize it made even more sense for the two other teams, specifically the Detroit Tigers.
If you recall, this trade was between three teams : the Yankees, Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks. A total of seven players were included in the trade: Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy (to Arizona), Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke, Daniel Schlereth (to Detroit), and of course Curtis Granderson (to New York). At the time it looked like all three teams benefited from the deal, but it's a little over three years after the deal was made. I believe it's time to look at how the Yankees were the losers of this deal.
The Yankees were deciding whether or not to re-sign Johnny Damon. Damon himself made that decision rather easy by asking for way more than he was worth at the time. This left the Yankees with rookie Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera and then-below-average bat, and Nick Swisher in the outfield. They were clearly uncomfortable with that and traded for Granderson, who they felt would give them a better chance to repeat. Melky was later traded for Javier Vazquez.
As for Austin Jackson, he was the Yankees top prospect in 2008 according to Baseball America. Yet, the team was still willing to part ways with him. I feel a major reason why he was traded was his bat. Jackson was known for being a strikeout guy. In 131 games in Trenton in 2008, Jackson struck out 113 times. The following season in Scranton Wilkes-Barre he raised his strikeout total to 123 in 132 games, with just four homers. He was clearly in need of more seasoning. The Yankees wanted a productive outfielder now and that wasn't happening overnight with Jackson. Curtis Granderson was the better option.
Austin Jackson still didn't turn into a star over night. Jackson had a 25.2 K% in 2010, leading the league with 170 strikeouts. and a 27.1 K% in 2011 with 183 strikeouts. But in 2012 Jackson lowered his K% to 21.7 on his way to a .300/.377/.479 line. The strikeouts should continue to decrease if current trends hold, and I have to think that his production will continue to improve.
Now, you all probably think I'm nuts for thinking this trade was a failure for the Yankees. Granderson had 84 home runs in the past two seasons, how can that be a failure? Well, let's take a look how they compared from a season ago.
Curtis Granderson - .346 wOBA/116 wRC+/2.3 WAR
Austin Jackson - .371 wOBA/135 wRC+/5.2 WAR
It turns out that Austin Jackson is a better, younger version of Curtis Granderson. It has just taken us three years to realize this. Unfortunately for the Yankees they'll have to deal with two possibilities, one, letting Granderson walk this off-season or two, re-sign him and watch him age. All while up north in Motown their ex-number one prospect is hitting his peak.
In the end, irony wins. Curtis Granderson became what the Yankees traded away in Austin Jackson. Granderson has increased his K% every year since joining the team. He reached a career high in K's a season ago with 195. Meanwhile Jackson is developing in a run producer and a better all-around hitter.
Defensively Jackson has surpassed Granderson. He covers a ton of ground in Comerica. He's perfect for their stadium. As for Granderson, he's misreading fly balls out in center occasionally and isn't covering as much ground for what he's capable of.
Austin Jackson will forever serve as a reminder for the Yankees organization. The team needs to realize the importance of putting trust in the farm system. If there's no trust, then the team cannot receive the rewards for their patience.