The New York Yankees made a lot of noise this past offseason with the huge free agent signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.
However, they also made a big signing in keeping their own outfielder, Brett Gardner, by inking him to a four-year, $52 million contract extension.
The guy who was brought up in New York’s system might not have as big of a name as Elsbury and Beltran, but he is not too shabby of a player himself, as he is coming off a solid season in which he set career-highs with 147 hits, 33 doubles, eight triples, eight homers and 52 RBIs. Keep in mind, he did this in a very weak Yankees lineup in which no batter was offered much protection and the whole offense was mediocre at best.
His numbers from 2013 are even more impressive because Gardner only played in 16 games in 2012 due to injuries. He was able to have arguably the best season of his career right after missing an entire year thus making it seem like there is no reason he should not perform even better in 2014 now that he has had a full, healthy season under his belt.
Signs of him continuing to perform at higher levels was evident in today’s Spring Training game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees were downed by Tampa Bay 5-4, but Gardner was able to provide half the offense with a two-run single in the fourth inning. It is constantly said that Spring Training stats do not matter, and to some extent this is true, but it cannot be ignored that Gardner now has two RBIs in only four preseason games. His RBI totals in the past? Four in 22 games last year, one in 21 games in 2012, five in 20 games in 2011 and two in 20 games in 2010.
This means that Gardner’s hitting is undoubtedly improving and he now has the hitting ability to capitalize with men in scoring position. Also adding to his baseball value is his blazing speed and him and Ellsbury create one of the best base stealing duos in all of baseball. New York might have spent the big bucks in getting new players in 2014, but it was definitely smart in bringing back a familiar face in Gardner.