Oct 16, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner warms up before game three of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

What do the Yankees do with the future of Brett Gardner?

If there’s one player I’d like to keep above the rest, it’d be Brett Gardner. However, with the possibility of not even re-signing Robinson Cano and the fact that Gardner will be arbitration eligible after the 2013, doesn’t bode well for the team. The New York Yankees are currently paying Gardner $2.85 million for 2013 and an estimated guess says that he’ll probably ask for $4-5 million in arbitration next year. However, Gardner is still someone this team needs to hold onto for at least the next few years.

The one obvious thing that Gardner possesses is speed. His 49 steals in 2011 made him the shared AL stolen bases leader with Coco Crisp. He’s a speedster around the bases, plays solid defense and a pretty good eye at the plate. So really, what isn’t to like about Gardner?

Brett Gardner may not have a whole lot power, but his contact is just as lethal. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For his career, Gardner is a .266/.355/.368 hitter with 137 stolen bases, 125 RBIs and has scored 257 runs. He hardly has any pop in his bat, only 15 home runs and an ISO rating of .103, but so what? Gardner doesn’t need power to be the effective player that he is. Not to mention, his patience at the plate seemed to improve from 2010 into 2011, as he struck out 17.8% of the time but lowered it to 15.8%.

Now obviously we cannot factor in his 2012 in which he only played 16 games, so let’s take a look at his past two full seasons. His 2010 season was easily his best year in which not only did he have a .277/.383/.379 slash line, but also a career-high WAR of 6.2. Gardner can be a pretty commanding contact hitter as he smacked 132 hits, 32 of which were extra base hits. He also stole 47 bases, had 47 RBIs and scored 97 runs inside the season.

In 2011, Gardner had a somewhat similar season to the prior year. While his WAR saw a 1.0 drop to 5.2, he would end up playing in 159 games in 2011 which has been the most so far in one year for him. He was able to get 132 hits once again and this time stole 49 bases. He also saw a drop in his BABIP (.340 in 2010, .303 in 2011) but he was still very productive with the lumber.

Defensively, Gardner is one of the most underrated left fielders in the game. In 2010, he played 906 innings in left and only committed one error while retaining a .995 fielding percentage. He had an UZR (ultimate zone rating) of 25.7 and a DRS (total defensive runs saved) of 26. In 2011, Gardner had even more time in left with 1158.2 innings under his belt with four errors and a .987 fielding percentage. Yet again, Gardner impressed with an UZR of 25.2 and a DRS of 23.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this guy is good. So what if he lacks the power to knock the ball out of the park all time, it’s not like contact is undesirable. Having Gardner back for 2013 is going to help the Yankees in a lot of ways. As it’s been shown before, Gardner scores a lot of runs and the fact that he’s able to put himself into scoring position is a treat for this line-up. With the way the Yankees hit (or didn’t hit) the ball last season, a lot of sacrifice flies will be able to score Gardner.

So, if I’m Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners, I look at what we have in Gardner. This guy is a speedster with a deadly contact bat and he doesn’t cost all that much. The Yankees may not be jumping the gun on re-signing guys like Cano because of the monetary issues, but Gardner should be a no-brainer. If there’s anyone the Yankees need to keep for the next few years, it’s Gardner, because it’s rare to find a guy like him who isn’t a one-and-done type player.

Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.

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Tags: Brett Gardner New York Yankees

  • ikkf

    How highly do you think Girardi values Gardner? And how much does Cashman listen to Girardi’s input? I think those are the most important factors to consider when predicting what the club will do. Girardi seems so doctrinaire and conventional-thinking, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be one of those guys who just focuses on the lack of power.

    • Bill B

      Your thinking is flawed. Experience after experience shows your thinking is flawed. Yes the 3 run homer is a great formula for success but to think Girardi dismisses Gardner for lack of power is bull dinky/ does Ichiro have power or Cervelli or Stuart. What are you talking about any way. Jeter has power? You just want to sound smooth. Your argument is weak. I think Mr. Orr writes an excellent article. Tim McCarver mentioned Gardner is key to the Yankees having a successful season. I agree. I think Gardner will be used and key to the Yankees winning 98 games this year. Corethree is right on. I have lived away from New York for 25 years. The media is New York is excellent but leans to the sceptical. Go Yanks get ready for 98 wins.


      • ikkf

        Hey genius, since you’ve got such keen powers of analysis, I suggest you re-read what I wrote, and very slowly, since you clearly are very poor at speedreading.

        • Bill B

          You must be a democrat or a liberal democrat if you have to resort to name calling to have discussion. I re read your comment slowly and my is see no reason to alter my comment to you. I don’t have to resort to insults. Think about that.

          • Jimmy Kraft

            Guys, settle down and keep the gloves up, ok? Bill, please don’t bring politics into any discussion in YGY, there’s no need for it. Also, if you disagree with someone’s opinion, don’t tell them their “thinking is flawed”. That’s very offensive and, again, there’s absolutely no need for it. We love both of you commenting here, so please don’t ruin it for everybody else. Can you both agree to that?

            With that out of the way; while I don’t agree with all of what ikkf wrote, he does bring up some good points. I, and many others here at YGY, have said before that Gardner is under-utilized on this team. The Yankees are missing more than 50+ HRs in their lineup (Swisher, Chavez, Ibanez) from last year. Now the team is going to rely a little more on speed in order to create runs. To me, Girardi has little choice in the matter, he has to make it work with the players he has. From a speed standpoint, I’m excited.

          • ikkf

            Thanks, Jimmy. I’ve stated several times here that I think Gardner is not only the most valuable player on the Yankees right now but I think he actually puts the most runs on the board if you look at his defensive range and high OBP.

            I made that note about Girardi because, while he’s a very good overall manager, seems so “by the book” about everything. I think the Yanks in 2013 and beyond could do really well or stumble badly depending on who’s their manager. And I don’t know if he’s the kind of guy who’d be great in a rebuilding situation, which the club is probably going to face in 2014.

          • ikkf

            I should also add that I’m worried that the Yanks don’t view Gardner as highly as they should and may let him walk when he’s a free agent. That would be a big mistake.

  • Corethree

    Great article Benjamin. I’ve always gotten more excited about player like Gardner, rather than Cano. I’m not a writer, so i can’t really explain myself very well. I feel Gardner’s way is the old way and the better way. I understand that home run hitters are being paid to hit home runs, but if you can’t bang it out of the park every time, you need players like Gardner to create runs, steal base etc. etc. how’d i do?

    • Benjamin Orr

      Thanks for your reply.

      You did great! It’s exactly true too. Gardner is the type of player who sets up the table for things to happen. Look at Mike Trout for example. He scored 129 runs, stole 49 bases and was regarded as one of the best players in the game last year. Sure his home run total was nice, but his speed was highly regarded as his strong point.Gardner is the exact same way.