Brett Gardner has earned the right to wear pinstripes for the rest of his career
Two years in a row, I have written a Yankees offseason checklist. And two years in a row, I’ve said that the second highest priority should be finding a club to trade Brett Gardner to. This is not anything against Gardy as his personality and performance has been vital to much of the Yankees success, particularly of late. I’ve always appreciated his leadership, his hustle, and his heart on the field. But with a crowded outfield, I always felt like he was going to become the odd man out. However, I was wrong, and I now think the Yankees need to find a way to allow Brett Gardner to finish his career in pinstripes.
Gardner broke into the league in 2008 at the age of 24 as a light hitting speed guy who was very solid in the field. In that 2008 season, he slugged just .299 en route to an abysmal .582 OPS, but he did successfully swipe 13 bags in 14 attempts in just 42 games. At that point, I probably never would have pictured that Gardner would become the longest tenured Yankee on the roster on a young Yankee squad in 2017. But here he is, and after putting together arguably the best season of his career in his age 33 season, Gardner has shown that he is the leader of the Yankee clubhouse, and that this team would not have made it this far without him.
Gardner has been often criticized in his career as an incredibly speedy guy who does not use his speed very effectively. A lot of this criticism is warranted, particularly due to his back-to-back 47+ steal seasons in 2010 and 2011. Gardner has combatted that criticism by becoming a power threat at the top of the lineup and for the first time in his career, Gardner was a 20-20 player.
Gardner’s value extends a lot further than his speed on the base paths, or his newfound power. Gardner won his first career Gold Glove in 2016, and he will likely win his second in a row this year, as he was the only qualified fielder in the MLB to not make an error this season. Gardner’s speed in left field allows few balls to drop in, and his sneaky-strong arm yielded 12 outfield assists, third in the American League.
Where Gardner becomes invaluable to a team is his characteristics that you cannot coach. To put it frankly, Gardner is a leader. He is always hustling, and we see that when he is diving into first or kicking it into another gear rounding second going for a triple.. He is always backing his teammates up in the field and in the dugout, he is clutch, and he is a grinder.
The way he grinded out his at-bat against Cody Allen in the top of the ninth inning in last night’s game five win was remarkable. Working a 12-pitch at-bat, Gardner got another clutch hit slapping a ball between the first and second baseman giving the Yankees a critical insurance run to make it a 4-2 ballgame and on an error, another run came home solidifying the Yankees 5-2 victory. And let’s not forget that in the fifth inning. Although Gardner struck out, he worked a 12-pitch at-bat against Andrew Miller, a key moment in getting him knocked out of the game.
Allen noted how valuable Gardy is to the Yankees when the Indians closer claimed that “every team in baseball could use a Brett Gardner.” That could not be more true, and the Yankees have realized that.
The Yankees nearly sent Gardner to the Cincinnati Reds following the departure of Robinson Cano to the Mariners in December of 2013. The Reds had offered a one-for-one deal of Brandon Phillips for Brett Gardner. Brian Cashman declined. This is not only a testament to Cashman, who time and time again has shown that he sees things that others do not (*cough* Didi Gregorius), but a testament to the value of Gardner to this team.
Phillips was coming off his third All-Star appearance in four seasons, with a .261/310/.396 slash line with 18 homers and 103 RBIs. Gardner was coming off a respectable .273/.344/.416 line with eight homers, 10 triples and 52 RBIs. With a void at second base and plenty of outfielders, the Yankees very well could have dealt Gardy. Now, I cannot imagine Gardner in another uniform.
This is a realization that many have come to over the course of this season. On a young team with few veterans, Gardner’s presence in that clubhouse in irreplaceable. He is respected by everyone on the team, and he backs it up with how he plays. His contract is up after 2018, and I simply can’t see the Yankees allowing him to play for another team before his career is over. Gardner has become everything you could ever ask for in a player, and he has earned the right to become a Yankee lifer if he chooses to do so.
Article by: Chad RainesFollow @chad_rain