Should the Yankees Keep Brett Gardner This Winter?
For the second consecutive winter, New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner has been one of the most discussed trade candidates of the Hot Stove Season.
Despite having the fourth-highest career fielding percentage as a left fielder in MLB history (.9919), New York Yankees homegrown star Brett Gardner was not awarded his first Gold Glove until this season, nine years after breaking into the big leagues in 2008.
The 33-year-old ranked second in the American League with a .989 fielding percentage and 249 putouts, just trailing the Royals’ Alex Gordon (.991 FLD %) and the Tigers’ Justin Upton (253 PO’s.) Additionally, the speedster led the MLB with 86 plays made “out of his zone” (OOZ) — 11 more than Upton, who was the runner-up. Gardner also finished second in the AL with 12 Defensive Runs Saved, just two short of Colby Rasmus‘s MLB lead. Gardner’s nine assists were good for third best in the league.
Gardner’s remains productive on both sides of the ball, despite a dip in power this season. While some may criticize Gardner’s .261 AVG as too low for a hitter at the top of the order, the lefty’s .351 on-base percentage (OBP) was 26th best in the AL — better than elite hitters with higher batting averages such as Robinson Cano (.298 AVG/.350 OBP,) Jackie Bradley Jr. (.267 AVG/.349 OBP,) and Manny Machado (.294 AVG/.343 OBP.)
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The reason that Gardner’s OBP is somehow .90 points higher than his AVG? His keen eye at the plate. His 70 walks were 13th best in the AL last season, and his 11% base-on-balls percentage was 14th best. This translated to Gardner having the 9th best contact percentage (84.6%) — meaning that he put 84.6% of the balls he swung at in play.
Additionally, while Gardner only slugged 7 home runs last season, his 6 triples were tied for 5th most in the AL. While some believe that Gardner’s speed is put to waste because he only stole 16 bags in 2016 (which can be credited largely to Joe Girardi‘s passive style of managing,) Gardner’s baserunning alone produced four runs this past season — tied for 5th most in the league.
Overall, Gardner’s shut-down defense, selective eye at the plate and speed on the base paths earned his team 3.4 wins above replacement (WAR) — 30th best in the AL according to Baseball-Reference’s metric.
For those unfamiliar with the statistic, it compares a player’s production to that of what the average Triple-A player would add to the team. Gardner earned his team as many wins as perennial all-star Todd Frazier (3.4), and more wins than Troy Tulowitzki (3.3,) Lorenzo Cain (2.9,) and Jose Abreu (2.8,) among others.
While Gardner’s contributions are not as flashy and easy to quantify as other stars, he remains one of the American League’s most valuable position players. He’s not expected to bring back much in a trade, so the Yankees may be better off keeping Gardner as a clubhouse leader and veteran mentor to the next generation.
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What do you say Yankees fans? Should the team deal Gardy this offseason or is it better to keep the life-long Bomber in the organization?