Wilpon: Granderson signing was essential
Curtis Granderson slipped on a No. 3 jersey and began his New York Mets career with a playful zinger directed at the fans of his former employer.
"A lot of the people I've met in New York have always said that true New Yorkers are Mets fans," Granderson said Tuesday afternoon at the winter meetings. "So I'm excited to get a chance to see them all out there."
Granderson's four-year, $60 million deal -- which includes a $13 million salary in 2014 -- is the largest awarded to a free agent by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson in four offseasons leading the club. It easily topped the previous record-holder: a two-year, $12 million contract to former closer Frank Francisco that has expired.
"No. 1, he brings a tremendous amount of professionalism," Alderson said. "He brings a personality. He brings credibility. He brings experience. And he brings talent. I think all of those things will be important. I really like the mix of players we have character-wise, personality-wise. I think he will enhance that mix. He's a gregarious, infectious personality."
The contract does not include no-trade protection. Granderson will receive $16 million in 2015 and 2016 and $15 million in 2017.
Granderson said the Mets were the lone team to offer four years.
"It was what we had to do," Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said. "It was something we wanted to do. It fit well with the plan. And it's a commitment on our part to have him around. He wanted to be around to see the team turn the corner and be a part of it moving forward."
The Mets have endured five straight losing seasons and will be without ace Matt Harvey in 2014 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Asked about the Mets' competitiveness next season with Granderson's addition, Wilpon said: "I think we're still building. We'd like to win next season, of course. I can't tell you what other moves Sandy is going to be able to make between now and Opening Day. We've got a long time to go. This is the second day of the winter meetings. I know everyone feels it's slow in coming, but these things sometimes take a little bit of time."
Granderson noted he began his career with the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers posted a 72-90 record when he debuted in 2004 and went 71-91 the following year before posting a 95-win season in 2006.
"We were one of the worst organizations in the minor leagues when I was in that system. And, sure enough, now they've become one of the best," Granderson said. "And there's been other teams, such as a Pittsburgh, a Kansas City, a Cleveland that consistently weren't in it, and they were definitely in the thick of things this past year. Obviously the biggest one was Boston last year from last to first."
The Mets' pursuit of Granderson ramped up quickly last week. Alderson met with Granderson nine days ago in San Diego. The Mets made the four-year offer later that week and sealed the deal. Captain David Wright reached out multiple times to Granderson to recruit him.
Alderson acknowledged Granderson's deal is expected to be the largest the Mets will award this offseason.
"I wouldn't predict that we'll do something else more financially expansive than this," Alderson said.
Granderson's production last season was limited to 61 games because of a pair of broken bones -- in his right arm in the New York Yankees' spring training opener, then in his left hand three months later. The Mets are satisfied no issues linger.
After hitting 41 homers in 2011 and 43 in 2012, Granderson had only seven last season while hitting .229 in 214 at-bats.
"He had a complete physical," Alderson said. "He got to the hospital yesterday before 10 and wasn't done until early evening."
In only one offseason since 1990-91 has a player received a deal of at least four years coming off a season in which he played fewer games than Granderson's 61. That came in 2004-05, when Richie Sexson, Magglio Ordonez and Troy Glaus all received contracts of at least four years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Manager Terry Collins has penciled Granderson into the cleanup slot, directly behind Wright.
Of Granderson's 1,159 career major league games, 1,134 have come in center field. Still, the most likely defensive alignment has Granderson in left field, with Juan Lagares in center and recently signed Chris Young in right.
"We have, potentially, three center fielders out there," Granderson said. "So the fact that there's speed and flexibility, I look at that as an asset for us out there. So no matter where I happen to be, I'm just excited to go out there and roam with those guys.
"I've always considered myself a center fielder. I've enjoyed doing that. But I came up as a right fielder. Then I moved to left field. So I've done a little bit of everything."
No matter what, the Mets' outfield -- which Alderson jokingly described as "What outfield?" last offseason -- is now pretty much set.
"I think now we have a pretty substantial outfield that we're hoping will produce," Wilpon said. "Curtis is not scared of New York. He's not scared of the dimensions of Citi Field. In fact, he's looking forward to running a little bit more -- having the ball find the corners, crevices and everything so he can get a couple of more triples."
Granderson's home run production should dip with his home ballpark shifting from Yankee Stadium to pitcher-friendly Citi Field.
"We did some rudimentary comparisons with some overlays and things," Alderson said. "We understand that Citi Field is not Yankee Stadium -- that it will have some impact on his statistical record. But everything is relative. And we're looking for excellence. We're not looking for numbers."
Granderson noted he played at spacious Comerica Park in Detroit before joining the Yankees.
"Detroit is very large in general," Granderson said. "It was something that until after I left, I didn't realize how large it was. The fact that I knew I could play there and did some things there gives me the opportunity to say that basically in any park you can play at."
Granderson chose No. 3, after consulting his parents, because he was born in March.
As for the Yankees allowing him to depart, Granderson said: "They were open with me. They said, 'Hey, we have a couple of other options that we're considering.' I said, 'I completely understand. We're doing the same thing.'"
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