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Granderson a necessary luxury for Dodgers

Eyeing a long October run, venerable veteran shores up center field
MLB.com @philgrogers

Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers?

Come on. That's just being greedy, isn't it?

Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers?

Come on. That's just being greedy, isn't it?

More like being smart. The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since 1988, and they know that while they have a good chance to end that drought in October -- it won't be easy. It will be anything but, given that they are likely to find the Nationals or Cubs standing in their way.

The Dodgers know that they'll need every big hit they can get, along with smart baserunning and textbook defense, if they're going to represent the National League in the Fall Classic. They'll need experienced, poised players when they are under the gun, and they're going to grab them when they get a chance.

That's the only way to look at the trade for Granderson late Friday night.

Los Angeles doesn't need him, but it sure can use him.

No stranger to the World Series himself -- he's been there with the Tigers and Mets -- Granderson improves a roster that has gone 51-9 since June 7.

The Dodgers are on pace to tie the all-time record of 116 wins -- and just might win 120, given their 25-5 record since the All-Star break. They've been winning without Adrian Gonzalez, who just came off the disabled list, and seemed set with an outfield cast that includes Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez and, at times, Cody Bellinger.

Gonzalez's return seemed likely to mean at least spot duty in left for the dynamic Bellinger (34 home runs, .973 OPS), who started 35 games there before settling in as the everyday first baseman while Gonzalez rehabbed his aching back. Also, both Franklin Gutierrez and Andre Ethier are optimistic about returning in September.

But every way you look at it, the picture is better with the ultra-professional, super-smart Granderson in it. He's 36, but has been one of the Mets' best players this season -- delivering an .815 OPS over 111 games while moving between center field and right field.

Video: NYY@NYM: Granderson belts a grand slam to right

Having cleared waivers, Granderson was in the pool of available players -- and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman grabbed him, agreeing to a deal for either a player to be named or cash. He should be an upgrade in center field, as Pederson is hitting .156 with two home runs since the All-Star break.

The versatile Hernandez, a right-handed hitter, should still get some starts in center against left-handers, but Granderson will become the primary option. He's played at borderline All-Star levels against right-handers throughout his 14-year career, and that has continued since he turned 36 in March (.230/.349/.504 against right-handers this season at the time of the deal).

Granderson is hitting only .228, but he's never been a guy you judged based on his batting average. His career on-base percentage (.340) is 86 points higher than his batting average and he drives the ball (312 home runs, 305 doubles and 92 triples).

But numbers have never defined Granderson. He's a complete player on the field and a complete person off it, a leader both in the clubhouse and the community.

Just ask the people around the University of Illinois-Chicago, his alma mater. He not only donated money to build a state-of-the-art stadium looking out onto the Chicago skyline, but insisted that youth fields be built around it -- so that inner-city kids might become comfortable on a college campus.

Granderson has also invested in restaurants around Chicago, including one that will have a location in the hotel currently under construction adjacent to Wrigley Field. He's been an ambassador for Major League Baseball abroad, whether it's for MLB or on his own during his international travels (one of his passions). Among of my favorite rituals during Spring Training is asking him about the latest stamps in his passport.

His arrival likely means a lot less playing time for Pederson and at least a little less for Taylor, Gonzalez and maybe even Bellinger. But with a 19-game lead in the NL West, the Dodgers can afford to start resting their guys with an eye on a long October run.

Friedman, general manager Farhan Zaidi and manager Dave Roberts are getting the most out of their roster. But there's always a way to make the roster better, and adding Granderson checks that box.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Curtis Granderson