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Bauman: Granderson a proven commodity

Bauman: Granderson an upgrade

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INDIANAPOLIS -- There weren't many places on the roster in which the New York Yankees, winners of the 2009 World Series, could make a sizable upgrade. But they found one place and they made the upgrade.

The place is center field, where the incumbent, Melky Cabrera, will give way to Curtis Granderson, obtained from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal that included the Arizona Diamondbacks. The teams agreed in principle to the trade on Tuesday and finalized the deal Wednesday.

Granderson is fast, he is an excellent defensive outfielder, and he has considerable power. If the triple is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, the man had 23 of those in 2007, so he personifies excitement.

On the flip side, Granderson has not been a big on-base percentage guy and as a left-handed hitter he has tended to struggle against superior lefties.

But his intangibles are terrific. He is an extraordinarily positive clubhouse presence. Tigers manager Jim Leyland once said that Granderson had "everything going for him." Granderson, Leyland said, was intelligent, articulate, good-looking, a gentleman, a legitimate baseball player and, in the face of all that, still humble.

A player of this caliber is not obtained for free. The Yankees gave up three young players. Ian Kennedy, who was once one of their top rotation prospects before struggling mightily when given a shot at making the rotation in 2008, goes to Arizona. He missed most of the '09 season after surgery to repair an aneurysm under his right armpit. Austin Jackson is a solid outfield prospect who before this trade could have had a shot at becoming the Yankees' center fielder, and lefty Phil Coke had emerged as a capable reliever in 2009. Both are now Tigers.

Rounding out the seven-player deal, the D-backs will send pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to Detroit and get right-hander Edwin Jackson in return.

It's effectively a three-for-one trade, but the Yankees are getting a proven commodity in Granderson. And he is only 28. As a left-handed hitter with some pop, he would seem to be ideally suited for the homer-friendly right-center-field area at Yankee Stadium.

There is nothing particularly wrong with Cabrera. But he is not as fast or as powerful as Granderson, or as good defensively in center. But Cabrera is still a useful player. Depending on how Johnny Damon's free agency works out, Cabrera could very well be the Yankees' regular left fielder. New York could feel comfortable with that outcome.

The point is, the Yankees have upgraded in center, all the way from "all right" to "exciting in a very good way." Their game plan for defending their championship, obviously, includes more than the pursuit of extremely expensive free agents or the most expensive pitcher on the trading block -- Roy Halladay.

After trading young talent here, the Yankees will have less of that commodity available to make a deal with the Blue Jays for Halladay. But the Granderson trade stands on its own merits.

This is a deal made by an operation that will not stand still after winning a championship. And this is not a question of being able to simply spend more than anybody else.

If you looked objectively at the 2009 Yankees, they were a terrific offensive club, they had a true No. 1 starter in CC Sabathia, they had found some depth in the bullpen and they still had the closer, Mariano Rivera, who over time has been the best in the game.

The least impressive grouping on this club was the outfield. It wasn't a bad outfield; Damon is still an admirable player and Nick Swisher is capable enough. But as a group, it wasn't as impressive as the rest of the team.

Now it's better. The Yankees didn't have to give away the store, and yet, they were able to upgrade to Granderson in center field. This is an astute move.

People who want a bigger splash from the Yankees might say: "But this isn't like signing Matt Holliday or Jason Bay." No, it isn't, because Granderson catches the ball better than either one of those guys, particularly Holliday.

Center field is like hallowed ground for the Yankees. No, this isn't Mickey or the Yankee Clipper they're putting out there. But Curtis Granderson still will work as a Yankee, because he is a winner on several different levels.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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