Let Brett bang once more. Appreciating New York Yankees veteran outfielder Brett Gardner is something needed at all times.
Coming off a career statistical year at the plate, Brett Gardner is once again a free agent. It seems all but certain that he will return to the New York Yankees in 2020, but remains uncertain beyond that year.
If this is it for Brett Gardner, let’s take a moment to reflect on a career that was better than everybody believes.
Gardner made his debut in 2008 with the Yankees, and early in his career, set his big-game precedent with a walk-off single against the Red Sox. Little did the Yankee faithful know how much of a role he would play in the years to come.
Now, the unofficial clubhouse leader of the team, Gardner has epitomized the Yankee way. He’s played hard every single time he stepped between those white lines. He is this generation’s Paul O’Neill, a true warrior who grinds every at-bat and every play.
The 2010 season was Gardner’s best year. The speedy outfielder put forth a .383 OBP that year with 47 stolen bases. His .346 wOBA and 112 wRC+ are the second-highest marks of his career.
The area Gardner really proved value was in the outfield. He had 33 defensive runs saved and a 31.5 UZR/150 in the outfield that year. Both were first in all of baseball among outfielders. He ended up with a 6.2 fWAR and 7.4 rWAR in 2019, good for 13th and sixth, respectively in baseball.
Since Gardner made his debut, he ranks in the top 30 in both rWAR and fWAR. While he’s never been an elite offensive presence, Gardner’s ability to work counts and get on base has always been valuable. His 10.2% career walk rate is good for 22nd amongst all hitters with at least 5000 PA since his debut.
He’s had six seasons in his career with a wRC+ over 105. Since 2010, he’s only had one season where he didn’t play in over 140 games. Yankee fans can appreciate his durability after this past season. Add that to a glove that has brought around 60 runs of defensive value over his career, according to FanGraphs, and Gardner has been underappreciated in his career.
The man of the moment has been one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball since his career began. Gardner is second in both defensive runs saved and UZR among outfielders since 2008. The only player with more during that time period was Jason Heyward.
Among outfielders, his 60 runs of defensive value are fifth since 2008. He’s won just one Gold Glove, but that seems a bit unfair. (Granted the Gold Gloves are a bit of a joke anyway.) Alex Gordon played left field while Gardner played, which hurt the Yankee. The number of people who probably knew Gardner’s true worth remained frustratingly low.
Nobody knows what the future holds for Gardner, but I can say this about the Yankee outfielder: he’s always over-delivered. He’s not the guy that he was in 2010, but he is the heart and soul of this Yankees team.
It’s hard to imagine Brett Gardner playing anywhere else. Gardner is heading for Monument Park. It’s hard to argue he doesn’t deserve it, especially when one considers how many individuals make it out there to that storied area of Yankee Stadium.