It has been an exceptionally heated hot stove this winter. The New York Yankees' marquee move was undoubtedly the trade for Detroit's All-Star centerfielder Curtis Granderson. Not only he a player of immense talent and character, but he is an already high profile player taking over what is the most high profile position in all off sports.
Whether or not the Granderson trade was beneficial for any of the parties involved will take a few years to determine.
If Granderson comes to New York, finds a cure to his Willie Mays Hayes Syndrome, and returns to the Curtis of 2007 who posted a .302/.361/.913 stat line with 25 steals and 23 triples (versus the faux power hitter who posted a brutal .249 batting average on the way to slugging himself a career best 30 home runs), than the Yankees could easily be the ultimate winners in the deal.
On the other hand, if Granderson struggles or if Austin Jackson turns into the player many have projected him to be, the Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski could once again be held in high esteem for making a difficult decision that ultimately resulted in the Tigers acquiring a player of greater value (along with the highly talented Max Scherzer). Even the Diamondbacks may see an affluent amount of output from new arms Edwin Jackson and possibly even Ian Kennedy, two pitchers tailor made for the National League.
The deal was the first of monster proportions, stealing headlines (until the Halladay/Lee deal), and causing debate in the hometowns of each team involved. But in the meantime a signing that could help the Yankees immensely and is more fitting with the team's modern philosophy went under the radar. The man who was once in line to replace Tino Martinez at first base has returned to the Bronx; Nick Johnson has come home.
Before the volley of jeers rains down about Johnson's limited value or his propensity for injury, let me acknowledge this fact so we can address it and move on: Johnson has been oft-injured and has stunted a very productive career with his inability to stay healthy. But the Yankees depth combined with the fact that Mark Teixeira mans first base indicates Johnson will undoubtedly see most of his time at DH, lending credence to the theory that this may finally be a situation where Johnson stands a chance to stay healthy and simply do what he does best; hit.
When Johnson manages to stay on the field, he has been a fundamentally sound and steadily productive player. In eight partial seasons Nick carries an excellent .402 OBP propped up by his 15.6 career walk percentage. Johnson is a line drive, left-handed hitter who consistently gets on base, has flashed power when healthy (23 HRs in 2006), and most importantly fits the Yankees "sabermetric intensive" approach to building a roster.
Nick staying healthy is obviously anything but a given. He's topped 100 games only four times in his entire career. But with the Yankees getting nowhere with the Johnny Damon (read Scott Boras) negotiations and Hideki Matsui signing with the Angels, Nick Johnson could provide a perfect complement to the Yankee lineup as a table-setter for the middle-of-the-lineup power, especially if Granderson falters in this role.
Both Granderson and Johnson are gambles (one more expensive than the other). But while the Granderson deal felt — according to many Yankee fans and writers — like a reversion to the old ways of doing business, surrendering vaunted prospects for questionable "big names," the Nick Johnson deal is a prime example of bargain shopping in an effort to add a player this will undoubtedly contribute to the team in an essential way, as long as is able to stay off of the DL.
And if he does happen to once again find himself crippled with injuries, the Yankees can take solace in the fact that they didn't move their number one prospect and best young left-handed pitcher to acquire him. In any case, Yankees fans will always see hope in one of their own returning to the Bronx and will welcome the Yankee favorite (Jason Giambi only made him more pined for and endeared) with open arms…. unless for some reason he doesn't hit of course. But all good Yankees fans know this is highly unlikely.