Usually, the New York Yankees will let their free agents test the market, without even talking about an extension. That goes for front office personnel as well. Well, they went 180-degrees on this with yesterday’s extension for Brett Gardner. Was this the smart and necessary move?
Well first, let’s look at it out of necessity. After 2014, Gardner would’ve been a free agent. With Alfonso Soriano possibly retiring after the season, the Yankees really didn’t have a replacement in left if Gardner were to leave. Zoilo Almonte is probably not a starting outfielder in the big leagues. What about the prospects? Would Slade Heathcott be ready to take a starting role? Probably not. Mason Williams and Tyler Austin wouldn’t be ready to start next year either at the big league level.
What about free agency? Colby Rasmus is younger at 28 and has more pop but would he be willing to move to left since Jacoby Ellsbury is in center? Michael Cuddyer could be a free agent, but him playing a big left field at Yankee Stadium is far from ideal. Norichicka Aoki is three years older than Gardner and not as good. Melky Cabrera? Doubt there would be a reunion. You could make the argument that Gardner would’ve been the best free agent outfielder on the market.
How bout the wise part? Well, let’s look at a player comparison over the past two seasons:
Player A: .269 avg .333 OBP 15 homers 107 RBI 47 doubles 65 stolen bases
Player B (from 2011-2013) : .268 avg .332 OBP 15 homers 90 RBI 44 doubles 75 stolen bases.
Player B is obviously Gardner. Player A? Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Bourn, who got a 4-year $48 million contract last off-season from the club. Gardner will turn 31 in August. Bourn is 31. Gardner’s contract is right in line with that of Bourn, and as you can see, they are pretty comparable.
Could Gardner have been an asset to trade to fill other holes? Sure, however, the Yankees would’ve been left without a replacement for Gardner, due to a lack of farm system production, and a lack of talent in the free agent market. The extension was necessary, because Gardner could’ve theoretically gotten more on the free agent market. Whether it was wise will play out over the next few seasons.