New York Yankees: What will life be like without Brett Gardner? 2
Sep 17, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) is greeted by left fielder Brett Gardner (11) and second baseman Starlin Castro (14) (right) after his two-run home run against the Boston Red Sox during the third inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight off-season, Brett Gardner has been in trade talks. But what will the New York Yankees look like without him?

The New York Yankees and their fans have never truly known what life was like without Brett Gardner. Since his major league debut in 2008, Gardner immediately became a key contributor to an already stacked Yankees team.

We’ve discussed the value that Gardner brings to the team. My colleague, Christian Kouroupakis, dove deeper into the numbers to determine just how underrated Gardner is in his current position with the Yankees. It’s safe to say that the speedster, while not compiling outstanding numbers, has always been impressive.

His under-the-radar productivity is exactly why he is in the middle of trade talks once again. With the Yankees looking to develop their younger stars, they are looking to trade the aging Gardner while he still obtains value.

To go hand-in-hand with that, fans are eager to let him go in anticipation of the rookies to come, but do they truly understand what they are asking for?

Do they truly know just how different the New York Yankees will be without Gardner?

Sep 20, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner (11) hits a RBI single during the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If Gardner gets traded, the Yankees are losing a consistent left fielder. So who will take his place? Aaron Hicks is the first name that comes to mind. At only 27, he is obviously a younger replacement for Gardner with an improvement in arm strength but he’s nothing like the Gold Glove winner in Gardner.

Hicks has never been a full-time starter. The most games he has started in a single season was 95 in his 2015 season with the Minnesota Twins, so the Yankees would be succeeding their durable full-time starter with a lackluster defender in Hicks.

We got our first taste of Hicks in right field last season and while his arm impressed, the rest of his defensive skills did not. There were far too many poor routes and decisions made by Hicks that makes his potential replacement a concern.

Without a solid, proven starter in left field, the outfield might just become a weakness for the Yankees after Gardner kept it consistent since becoming a full-time starter in 2010.

In addition to losing a gold glove winner, Joe Girardi would be losing a reliable lead-off hitter. While they have options to fill Gardner’s position at the top of the lineup, none of them have Gardner’s success. He’s shown a careful eye at the plate; last season he took 70 walks, posting an OBP of .351.

In addition to demonstrating patience at the plate, Gardner also served as a stolen base threat. In nine seasons, he recorded 218 steals, including 16 just last season. When it comes to Brett Gardner’s replacement in the lead-off spot, whoever it may be, he’ll have big shoes to fill.

Sure, Jacoby Ellsbury could even serve as a substitute lead-off. Didi Gregorius could also be an option. However, their lack of patience at the plate would be a detriment to the top of the order.

Brett Gardner could easily have spent his final games in pinstripes. He would be a valuable asset to many teams looking for a reliable, slick-fielding presence in left. No matter how excited fans are about the upcoming youth movement, you can’t deny that the loss of Gardner would cause some ripples in the Yankees’ line-up.

Gardner’s attitude and leadership value is often overshadowed in the Bronx, especially after Derek Jeter served as captain for years. Gardner is a born leader and explosive player, both traits that would make any team lucky to have him.

Gardner may not necessarily have Hall of Fame-worthy statistics, but he is a gritty, everyday player who gets the job done. And whenever he decides to make a move, his valuable presence will certainly be missed in the Bronx.

*All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. I completely agree on all points, Gardy is exactly the kind of veteran you want in a room full of rookies. He sets the right tone. He’s a leader in the dugout and on the field. He grinds out his bat like a professional, rather than waiting for pitchers to make mistakes. He is the only home-grown Yankee with a WS ring on his finger. He carries the Yankee legacy and should be the one to pass it on to the newbies. His contract dovetails nicely with next-gen player development and he’s a perfectly affordable veteran player.

    He’s not clogging player development, Ellsbury is. And he’ll clog up player development for the next four years, he breaks easily and provides none of the leadership Gardy provides.

    I realize moving Ellsbury is the harder trick, but if the Yankees are willing to eat whatever salary is needed to make it happen. It can be done. Even if that means eating 15-20 million a year to keep him off the Yankee roster, they should do it. They signed that foolish contract, they should eat it.

    • I realize moving Ellsbury is the harder trick
      ——————————————————
      You obviously don’t, since your solution makes no mention on how to make his no trade clause magically disappear.

      Luckily, the Yankees don’t need to get rid of either, because neither of them is blocking player development. The Yankees only have one outfield prospect who deserves a starting role in the majors, as of right now: Judge. And he’s a right fielder. Everyone else is pretty far from proving themselves at triple A.

      One of the great things about Gardner is that he’s easy to move. So, if anyone in the minors were to earn a call-up, Gardner can be moved at any time.

      • I believe Ellsbury’s contract, along with his statistical record and cancelled paychecks should be mounted on the wall beside the entrance to the front office, as a warning to all who enter.

        Then they should eat all the money necessary to move him, because he’ll clog outfield development for the next 4-5 years.

        Judge, Mason, Austin, Hicks, Refsnyder, Frazier, Fowler, Mateo, Rutherford and (god help me) even Cave and McKinney are standing behind him waiting for a chance to play. At least 2 of them will prove equal or better than Ellsbury.

        • Huh? Judge and Refsnyder are right fielders, Hicks can barely hack it as the fourth outfielder, and the other ones aren’t even close to major league ready. No one’s standing behind Ellsbury.