Let's say that you're a team in the playoff hunt, which most of baseball still is. One of baseball's best outfield hitters for most of the season is available, and he's already cleared waivers. He won't cost much, as the market for rental outfielders Jay Bruce and J.D. Martinez clearly
Let's say that you're a team in the playoff hunt, which most of baseball still is. One of baseball's best outfield hitters for most of the season is available, and he's already cleared waivers. He won't cost much, as the market for rental outfielders Jay Bruce and J.D. Martinez clearly showed. He won't require a long-term commitment, since he's a free agent. He won't insist on playing every day. Plus, not only can he hit, he's won multiple awards for simply being a good person and teammate.
You'd want that player, right? So why is Curtis Granderson not playing for a contender yet?
"Because he's 36 and hitting .230," you might say, and we couldn't argue with either. Granderson is indeed 36, one of only seven qualified hitters that age or older, though that doesn't matter too much since you aren't tied to him past 2017. At most, if you go to the World Series, we're talking about a dozen weeks of play. Age isn't an issue here.
Granderson is definitely hitting .230, too, but batting average doesn't matter anymore, and even if it did, all Major League outfielders combined are hitting exactly .230. The difference is that he has a .334 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage, as compared to the average .321 OBP and .396 slugging from all outfielders. Compared to an average outfielder, Granderson is better at getting on base and hitting for power, which is what matters.
Video: NYM@PHI: Grandy drils a two-run homer to right-center
But to merely look at his full season line somewhat misses the point, anyway. Like pretty much all of his Mets teammates, Granderson got off to a very rough start, hitting just .128/.174/.221 in April, a line so disappointing that it was actually the worst hitting line of any qualified batter in the season's first month. That opened the door somewhat for more playing time for Michael Conforto, and that's been a good thing; Conforto's slugging has been one of the few bright spots to come from an underwhelming Mets season.
Here's the thing, though. Granderson didn't just bounce back from a bad start. Since May 1, he's basically been the exact same hitter as Conforto, with a fraction of the attention.
Since May 1
Conforto: .274/.387/.552 .393 wOBA
Granderson: .266/.384/.570 .396 wOBA
That's a nearly indistinguishable batting line over nearly four months, and while we're not saying Granderson is as valuable as Conforto -- he's 12 years older and not as strong a defender -- he's spent his summer performing exactly like one of baseball's young breakout stars.
Granderson's post-April numbers stack up extremely well among all of baseball, too. Since May 1, there have been 147 players to step to the plate as often as Granderson has (294 times). We'll use an advanced stat called wRC+ to show offensive production; it's useful because it sets 100 as "league average," and because it's park-adjusted, which allows you to compare players who call Citi Field home with those who slug in Coors Field.
Video: NYM@WSH: Granderson ties it in 9th with two-run homer
You won't be surprised by the names at the top of the list. You might be surprised to see how high Granderson is.
Top hitters since May 1 (minimum 294 plate appearances), by wRC+
176 -- Jose Altuve / Joey Votto
169 -- George Springer
166 -- Marwin Gonzalez
164 -- Giancarlo Stanton
162 -- Aaron Judge
159 -- Paul Goldschmidt / Justin Smoak
157 -- Anthony Rendon
153 -- JD Martinez
148 -- Granderson / Kristopher Bryant / Eric Hosmer / Cody Bellinger
There's Granderson, tied over the past 3 1/2 months with last year's NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, a World Series champ finally tapping into his power, and the clear front-runner for the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year Award. He's ahead of Corey Seager and Daniel Murphy; he's ahead of Anthony Rizzo and Mike Moustakas.
What changed? Perhaps less than you'd think, given that Granderson's season line of .230/.334/.479 (113 wRC+) is basically identical to last year's .237/.335/.464 (114 wRC+). There's some evidence he improved his patience after April, cutting his swing rate from 43 percent to 37 percent, tripling his walk rate, and raising his average exit velocity from 84.3 mph to 88.3 mph, but if there's a problem here, it's one of timing and perception. Thanks to the slow start, fans were seeing a batting average below .200 every single night on their screens until June 4. That's a tough look to overcome.
Video: NYM@MIA: Granderson belts a two-run homer in the 7th
While you shouldn't bet on Granderson to produce like Bryant or Bellinger indefinitely, he's a solidly above-average hitter who can help a contender, especially if he's deployed in a platoon, as he's long been stronger against righties. His splits this year nearly mirror his career marks, which is a below-average 88 wRC+ against lefties and a very good 122 wRC+ against righties. While Granderson is out of place in center field -- as you'd expect, baseball's oldest center fielder is also its slowest -- he won't kill you in a corner, either.
Where might he fit?
We know, intradivisional trades among teams expected to battle for the division are rare. But with Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton and Jayson Werth all on the shelf, there's no team who needs an outfielder more than the Nats, who have been trying to get by with Adam Lind and Howie Kendrick in left while hoping Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin and Andrew Stevenson can cover center and right.
Eaton won't be back this year, and Werth and Harper will be out until at least September. Even then, can you count on the 38-year-old Werth to stay healthy and productive in October? There's probably no better fit of player and need, regardless of division rivalries.
Video: LAD@NYM: Granderson makes a slick sliding catch
You wouldn't think a team with Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco would need an outfielder, but even with McCutchen's return to form, things haven't gone well in Pittsburgh's outfield this year. Polanco hasn't really hit (.255/.311/.407, 88 wRC+), and he's dealing with yet another leg injury in a season where he's rarely been healthy. Marte (.239/.304/.316, 69 wRC+) hasn't really hit on either side of his suspension, and the the Bucs have been forced to play nontraditional outfielders like John Jaso and Sean Rodriguez out there more than they'd like.
Pittsburgh still has a long-shot chance, just 4 1/2 games out in the NL Central, but with catcher Francisco Cervelli hurting too, they'll need help. Granderson could provide it.
The Angels lost Michael Trout for more than a month, have gotten very little from pitchers Garrett Richards, Huston Street, Matthew Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney and Tyler Skaggs, and yet still find themselves holding the second Wild Card spot. You can point to how great Andrelton Simmons has been, and some nice bullpen finds, but even if we don't fully understand it either, why stop now? They're in it, so win it.
While the focus is on the pitching staff, they could use a cost-effective bat, too, as their .392 slugging is the American League's lowest. While Kole Calhoun (.242/.320/.370, 89 wRC+) has had a disappointing season, Granderson wouldn't displace him in right. Instead, he'd be a big upgrade as the left-handed side of the left field platoon over Ben Revere (.252/.284/.322, 65 wRC+), and, as blasphemous as it sounds, he'd be a DH upgrade over Jose Pujols, hitting a mere .230/.272/.376 (72 wRC+), the fourth-lowest OBP of any qualified hitter.
You could probably go on indefinitely. He'd be an upgrade over Carlos Gonzalez in Colorado; he was connected to Milwaukee earlier this summer; you even wonder if the Yankees would like him back as a DH if Matthew Holliday doesn't turn it around.
The Mets are in full sell mode, and have plenty of outfielders left in Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares. They don't need Granderson. But some contender does, and it'd be a mistake to pass him by. Even at 36, Granderson can still help you win.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.