Throughout the past offseason and into the early part of Spring Training, there has been constant speculation that the New York Yankees were on the verge of trading Brett Gardner to a horde of different teams. Those rumors have finally been put to rest now though, as the team and player have agreed to a four year, $52 million deal — with an option for a fifth year — that is a win-win for both sides and will turn out to be a huge bargain in the long run.
For the Yankees, this move cements the teams outfield for at least the next five years, as Jacoby Ellsbury is signed on through 2020, Gardner through 2018, and even Carlos Beltran is on board through 2016. While the last two years of the Beltran deal could see a heavy dose of at-bats at DH, the Yankees still have two players that could compete to win the Gold Glove at center and left field for the next five years in Ellsbury and Gardner. With the vast outfield in center and left field having the ability to provide the difference in tight games, the Yankees can be assured that these two will not let a single ball drop, and in terms of metrics, will save anywhere between three and five games per year.
Moving into the offensive portion of things, there is little doubting that Gardner will continue to post close to his career slash line of .268/.352/.381, although with good health he could see a slight uptick. And while a total of seven home runs is his absolute ceiling, the 30 year old can easily steal 50 bases per year if given the opportunity, and will also put up 170 hits, 30 doubles, 10 triples and 100 runs per year. This may not be as flashy as going out and getting another power hitter, but it will provide Yankees manager Joe Girardi with the opportunity to utilize small ball and create runs even when the big boys don’t show up, which has ailed the team in past postseason failures.
Best of all for the Yankees, this is a move that will not drag the team into a time period when Gardner is going to be compromised as a player. Even if he has the option for the fifth year picked up, he will be 36 years of age and conceivably should have a decent portion of the speed that has made him such a force on the base paths and in the outfield to date. That he seems to have a grasp on utilizing this speed through slapping the ball around the park is a huge positive, as is the fact that when this deal is up, the left fielder’s value will just be starting to take a steep drop.
Obviously for Gardner, making $13 million per year will be a huge upgrade from his career high of $5.6 million in 2014, and this can’t be dismissed. There is little reason for him to become complacent though, as the 30 year old has always been known as a gritty ball player, and he seems to relish waking up every morning and making his way to Yankee Stadium.
This move will go on to cement an outfield that will rank amongst the best in the American League East defensively for the next half of the decade — regardless of who plays right field — and also cements a one-two punch at the top of the lineup along the way. While Gardner may not be the flashy power hitter that goes down in Yankee lore, he will be worth four to six WAR for every year of his deal with good health, which will mean he is being signed on a bargain, and will also help the Yankees be World Series contenders for the next half decade.
Click here for Yanks tickets all season long.