It’s that time of the year again, New York Yankees fans, and if MLB transactions were allowed, it might already be a done deal.
Late February usually marks the moment when Brett Gardner’s name surfaces and then a reunion with the Yankees occurs days later (which has been happening since after the 2018 season). His name has surfaced in the past week, but New York can’t do anything about it until the lockout is over.
MLB insider Joel Sherman of the New York Post recently spoke with Gardy’s agent, who revealed the veteran plans to play in 2022 and prefers it be with the Yankees, though he would do so for another team if the two sides couldn’t work out a reunion.
Fans wondered if Gardner would be calling it quits after 2021. He’s now entering his age-38 season, the Yankees’ outfield is pretty much stacked (barring injuries), and the 14-year veteran might have fallen off a cliff.
Gardner’s epic 2019 campaign almost guaranteed him one more year in New York and then the shortened 2020 left everyone feeling unfulfilled after a 60-game season. Can’t have Gardy go out like that, right?
But after a below average 2021, how much longer are we going to wait for the perfect situation to send him off?
Will Brett Gardner’s announcement change the Yankees’ offseason plans?
With all due respect to Gardner, his 2019 showing remains an outlier. And we can prove it based on his production the past four seasons.
- 2019 (141 games) – .251 with an .829 OPS, 86 runs scored, 29 homers, 74 RBI, 10 stolen bases, 117 OPS+
- 2018, 2020 and 2021 combined (329 games) – .229 average with a .697 OPS, 162 runs scored, 27 home runs, 99 RBI, 23 stolen bases, 96 OPS+
Is this the kind of production the Yankees want to risk putting on the field for 140+ games assuming there’s an injury that requires Gardner to play that much (which has been the case for the last 4-5 years)?
There is the sentimental aspect, though. Gardner is the last remaining 2009 world champ on the roster. He’s said to be a good mentor to younger players, as Clint Frazier stated countless times. But how much longer should that be valued?
The pros are obvious. Gardner is a good versatile defender, provides some pop from the left side of the plate, is durable, and serves as a leader.
The cons, though? There are better options out there. He always ends up playing far too much considering what was initially expected. Because of the Yankees messing up their lineup construction, he’ll end up logging far too many at-bats near the top of the order, where he no longer belongs. Perhaps it’s time to let the Yankees of yesteryear go and start anew with this core so a few other guys can assume steadfast leadership roles without Gardner serving as a de facto figure constantly.
It’d sure be a shame watching him play for the Mets, but the Yankees need to get better. They can’t sacrifice that for the sake of holding onto tradition or “doing right” by a player they’ve done right by for three straight years now.
It’s unfortunate that the lockout has baseball fans’ morale at an all-time low and a discussion like this isn’t going to help, but the Yankees can’t let Gardner alter their offseason plans by preventing them from upgrading or force them into a situation they don’t have to be burdened with.
Gardner’s a memorable Yankee and his achievements aren’t going anywhere, but we’re nearing the end and there’s not enough time to wait around for the unblemished send-off.