Curtis Granderson is coming in off a 2.1 fWAR age 36 season and is currently pencilled in to be the Blue Jays left fielder. The question I’m sure everyone had about this signing is “Granderson is going to be 37 this season, is he even going to be worth the 5 million deal he got?” Well I looked at similar age 37 player seasons to find out.
First I looked at similar age 36 outfielders with and wRC+ between 100 and 110 and had an fWAR between 1 and 3 (I figured the athleticism of Mike Cameron and Ichiro Suzuki being awesome putting up over 4 fWAR at 36 wasn’t a good comparison for this exercise).
Hey look, it’s superstar Jays prospect Bo Bichette’s dad! The player comparisons make a lot of sense to me. Besides Dante Bichette and Johnny Damon (DHing most of his age 36 season) most of these players were passable defensively with some ~20 HR power (once again with the exception of Damon). Granderson had more power but is also playing in an era where power is at it’s highest. So what did they do at age 37?
Well, they all got worse. That is kind of expected, 37 is further away from their prime than 36 so, of course, they are going to be worse. Brady Anderson offensively fell off a cliff and would play in only 34 games his next year before calling it a career. Dante Bichette spent half of his time DHing, but saw himself limited to only 415 PA. Johnny Damon and Paul O’Neil saw a more gentle drop in their numbers across the board. Marlin Byrd saw his .341 BABIP regress to a more reasonable .297. Marquis Grissom saw his walk rate cut in half and his defense really drop off; he probably shouldn’t have been the full time center fielder at that point in his career.
What does this mean for Granderson? Well, besides Brady Anderson they all remained around league average offensively. Granderson’s really low BABIP could lead to some regression to offset some of the lost offensive prowess due to age. His defence will probably be worse but putting him in left field will put him in a better situation than Grissom was in. Keeping his arm away from center and right field where he played 76% of his innings last year should help mitigate some of the defensive losses due to age. Another thing to note is that the players played everyday and despite most of them having noticeable splits (Bichette missed some time in April but then played everyday until September where he only got into 8 games from Sept 1st on). If Gibbons were to platoon Granderson, it would reduce his playing time but he would probably be much more effective than if he’s facing lefties (.202/.274/.394 line against lefties last year).
While it looks like Granderson is not likely to be not as good at age 37 than at age 36, by platooning him in left field the Jays would be putting him in the best situation to maximize his contribution to this team. A 1-1.5 WAR platoon player would be a reasonable expectation and a definite upgrade compared from what happened in the outfield last year.