Brett Gardner Yankees
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Who were the best Yankees players between 2011-20?

Because we have no Major League Baseball to talk about (other than ongoing CBA negotiations), we’re going to throw it in the way back machine for a few days and look back at the best players in each decade for the New York Yankees.

We’re going to roll this back all the way to the 1960s, giving you the top ten players ranked by their WAR (per Baseball-Reference).

We’ll start with the last complete decade: 2011-20.

1. Brett Gardner — 32.5 (2011-20)

Gardner has done it all over the last decade, even if he earned his one and only World Series ring in 2009. Since then, he has provided everything from elite outfield defense to speed to great leadership. Gardner has only hit .254 over this stretch but with an All-Star selection and Gold Glove under his belt, his WAR only does his value so much justice.

2. Robinson Cano — 20.9 (2011-13)

It’s a shame two steroid suspensions have since tainted Cano’s legacy because in these last three years with the Yankees, he was a special talent. That smooth lefty swing with perfect contact/power balance saw him hit .309 over this stretch and play in three consecutive All-Star Games. Cano has since spent seven playoff-less years with the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets, and probably regrets leaving the Bronx at all in the first place.

3. Aaron Judge — 20.3 (2016-20)

All rise! Judge is easily today’s fan favorite in the Bronx as he mashes home runs and shows off his cannon of an arm with a quiet ferocity. Even with injury issues, Judge still posted a line of .272/.390/.558 with a .948 OPS to go with 119 home runs. He is undoubtedly the heir apparent to Derek Jeter’s captaincy.

4. CC Sabathia — 18.6 (2011-19)

CC Sabathia and his New York Yankees tenure aren’t just the World Series he won his first year with the team in 2009. He spent the rest of his career in the Bronx and was a reliable ace until injuries robbed him of his velocity. Yet, he adjusted his approach and became both a junkballer and surefire Hall of Famer. Sabathia notched his 3,000th strikeout in 2019 and 134 of his 251 career wins came in pinstripes.

5. Masahiro Tanaka — 17.6 (2014-20)

Tanaka spent all seven of his MLB seasons with the New York Yankees and embodied the spirit of a true pinstriped pitcher. He was clutch in big games and wasn’t afraid to work into the deeper innings, posting a 3.74 ERA and a 3.33 mark in the postseason. He has since returned to his native Japan, and plenty of fans miss him.

6. Didi Gregorius — 15.1 (2015-19)

It isn’t easy filling the void left by Derek Jeter, but Didi Gregorius pulled it off. He overcame a rough first season in the Bronx to finally reach his potential and become a fan favorite in his own right. Gregorius also showed great range at shortstop and was clutch with his smooth lefty bat, including two key home runs in the playoffs.

7. Luis Severino — 11.7 (2015-19)

It’s a shame that injuries have defined the last few years of Severino’s career because in the pre-Gerrit Cole days, no one looked more like a homegrown ace than he did. He finished third in AL Cy Young voting in 2017 and won 19 games the following year. He finally seems recovered from all of his arm trouble, so he can hopefully pick up where he left off when the 2022 season begins.

8. Dellin Betances — 11.5 (2011-19)

Like Severino, Betances quickly saw his career derail after the injury bug took away both his control and velocity. But in his prime years with the New York Yankees, Betances was an unstoppable middle reliever. He made history as the only reliever to strike out 100 hitters in five consecutive seasons and mastered pairing a triple-digit fastball with a knee-buckling curve.

9. David Robertson — 11.4 (2011-14, 17-18)

When we look back at the high standard the New York Yankees set for having a strong bullpen, Robertson’s name has to be mentioned. He was a middle reliever, setup man, and closer during two separate stints in the Bronx. Most important of all, the man they called “Houdini” was clutch as can be and opposing hitters batted just .189 against him in high leverage situations.

10. Hiroki Kuroda — 11.4 (2012-14)

A well-tenured veteran in his native Japan, Kuroda came to the New York Yankees at age 37 in 2012. Over three separate one-year contracts, he was an ageless wonder and reliable innings-eater. A 3.44 career ERA as a Yankee later, Kuroda then returned to Japan and pitched two more strong seasons for the Hiroshima Carp.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.