According to Mark Feinsand, the Yankees are talking to Brett Gardner about returning to the Bronx for a 13th season. However, expecting Gardy to reproduce his 2019 statistics is risky.
After signing a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Yankees last offseason, many expected 2019 to be Brett Gardner’s final year in pinstripes. Especially after taking what amounted to a $3 million pay cut.
However, along the way, Aaron Hicks missed all but 59 games — and all of a sudden, Gardner went from a fourth outfielder to a starting role (98 games in center field) and put up power numbers that surpassed his lone All-Star season of 2015.
In 141 games, the 36-year-old produced a career-high .503 SLG, .839 OPS, 28 home runs and 74 RBIs across 491 at-bats. Gardy also exceeded expectations by scoring 86 runs, hitting 26 doubles, seven triples and stealing 10 bases.
A resurgence in his approach at the plate can be attributed to Gardner’s change in mechanics. According to Statcast, Gardner raised his launch angle from 8.4 in 2018 to 13.6 in 2019.
Gardy’s athleticism is still plenty robust, as Statcast ranks his speed in the 91st percentile. With +5 Defensive Runs Saved and +3.0 Ultimate Zone Rating, his glovework remains above-average.
While the Yankees will hope to get a full campaign out of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton — following injury-induced absences, Aaron Hicks will miss 8-10 months as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Although the Yanks have extra players that can cover the corners of the outfield (Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade and Clint Frazier), Gardner’s 543 career games in center outweigh his competition, even if his range does naturally decline in 2020.
Just so we’re clear, Jacoby Ellsbury and Estevan Florial aren’t viable options.
While re-signing Cameron Maybin is still an option, knowing the Yankees’ loyalty to Gardner, should the two find common ground in regards to dollars and cents — expect the Gardy Party to return to the Bronx for at least another season.
On the flip side, should Hicks experience any setbacks in his recovery from the torn UCL his throwing elbow, the Yanks would be wise to further back themselves up with more than just Gardy, even if that means the further development of Tauchman. After all, Gardner credited some of his increased production to the juiced ball in 2019.