INDIANAPOLIS – A splashy three-way trade that would send center fielder Curtis Granderson(notes) to the New York Yankees, lighten the Detroit Tigers' payroll burden and replenish the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation was close to completion early Tuesday afternoon, according to sources.
Enlivening a winter meetings lobby that hadn't seen much over the first couple days, the Yankees were to send former first-round pick Ian Kennedy(notes) to Arizona and outfield prospect Austin Jackson(notes) and reliever Phil Coke(notes) to Detroit in return for the rangy Granderson, an All Star who hit 30 home runs and batted .249 last season for the Tigers.
Awaiting the exchange of medical information and other matters of paperwork, a process that has fouled plenty of handshake agreements, the trade was otherwise “close,” according to a Diamondbacks official.
The Yankees would get Granderson, who would take over center field, push Melky Cabrera into left field for the moment and perhaps turn their DH into a first-come, first-served situation between free agents Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Presumably, the Yankees could consider upgrading left field with one of Jason Bay or Matt Holliday.
The Tigers apparently would get starter Max Scherzer(notes), Jackson and two other players, one believed to be Coke, the other hard-throwing reliever Dan Schlereth from the Diamondbacks. Hoping to clear salary from a payroll bloated with heavy contracts, the Tigers came into the offseason shopping Jackson, who made $2.2 million in '09 and was due a large raise, and Granderson, due almost $26 million over the next three seasons.
Speaking generally as rumors of the trade swept the room, Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch said, “We traded [Jon] Garland in July, then [Doug] Davis walked in free agency. There were some clear holes and innings to fill.”
The trade would move three of the game's more celebrated young arms, Scherzer from Arizona to Detroit, Jackson from Detroit to Arizona and Kennedy from New York to Arizona. Two – Scherzer and Kennedy – were first-round selections in the 2006 draft.
Jackson, at 26, is the oldest of them. After early missteps in Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, Jackson found himself with the Rays in 2008 and, after being traded for outfielder Matt Joyce, broke out with the Tigers in '09, particularly in a first half in which his ERA was 2.52.
Scherzer, who won't be arbitration eligible for two years so is inexpensive, made 30 starts for the Diamondbacks, posted a 4.12 ERA and had 174 strikeouts in 170 1/3 innings. Though Scherzer's fastball is one of the hardest in baseball, the Diamondbacks were waiting on the development of reliable second and third pitches. Many scouts believe he has the best potential of the three, and some compare him to Joba Chamberlain and believe Scherzer eventually will be better suited to a back-of-the-bullpen role than the rotation.
Kennedy, drafted 10 places behind Scherzer 3½ years ago, has made only 12 big league starts, in part because of performance and in part because he had surgery in May for an aneurysm near his right shoulder. He returned to the majors in September, pitching an inning against the Angels.
The trade's greatest immediate impact would be the Yankees adding Granderson, the left-handed-hitting leadoff man who would become yet another power threat for a lineup that already boasts Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Though vulnerable against lefties, Granderson has three times hit 22 or more home runs and twice stolen at least 20 bases. He'll be 29 in March.