Veteran Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner shouldn’t be moved to the bench.
For the past decade, Brett Gardner has been a constant for the New York Yankees. As the team transitioned from overpaid veterans to the Baby Bombers era, left field was patrolled by No. 11.
As his career winds down, Gardner has received a fair share of flak for his play, especially during the latter half of the 2019 season. With talented young outfielders like Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier waiting in the wings, the calls for Gardner to head to the bench have grown in 2020.
I say not so fast.
Remember, New York decided to bring Gardner back for another run even after the Yankees displayed strong outfield depth in 2019.
First of all, Aaron Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery so New York needed a placeholder in center field; Frazier’s disastrous season on defense raised numerous question marks; and Tauchman, a 29-year-old who was finally entrusted with a meaningful big-league role, is nothing but a one-hit-wonder at this juncture.
Now, the coronavirus and the delayed start to the season has thrown Miguel Andujar into the outfield mix and has given Hicks extra recovery time, but Gardner should still see plenty of action.
When it comes to Tauchman, the most logical everyday replacement for Gardner, he’s more suited to play the role of the fourth outfielder thanks to his defensive versatility. He can fill in for Judge and Hicks when they need an off day.
Plus, Tauchman still needs to prove his 2019 wasn’t a fluke, particularly at the plate. New York knows what they’re getting in Gardner — an solid hitter who can work counts with his professional approach and hit home runs over the short porch with regularity.
As much as Tauchman needs to prove he deserves an everyday role, Andujar and Frazier need to prove they can handle left field defensively. Until then, New York, a team smack in the middle of their championship window, should stick with what they know.
There’s something to be said about stability, especially on a team that was decimated by injuries last season. Gardner is no longer the long-term option and 2020 looks more and more like the end of the road for him in New York. However, a number of players need to earn the trust Gardy has from the front office and coaching staff before he’s sent away.
Juiced ball or not, Gardner had a tremendous 2019 season. He crushed a career-high 28 homers and drove in 78 runs. While he faded late, a drop in production as the season wears on won’t be a factor in the 60-game sprint throughout 2020.
While statistics cannot back up Gardner’s importance to the team off the field, there’s no doubt he’s a lead-by-example-type player in the locker room. He’s now the final piece left from the Yankees 2009 World Series team. He’ll continue to play an important role for the Yankees behind the scenes.
To toss aside a reliable veteran who has manned his position every night for the past decade is foolhardy. There’s no need to rush in a replacement with so many unanswered questions regarding the other options. That time will come, it’s just not right now.
Until then, let’s enjoy gritty, gutty, Gardy once more.