The longest-tenured New York Yankee currently is Brett Gardner. Garnder has been a major contributor for the Yankees since 2008 and may very well be in his final season in pinstripes.
Gardner has a career slash line of .262/.347/.390, with 245 stolen bases, 85 home runs, 419 rbi’s and 1141 hits. Brett is the Yankees leadoff hitter and gives quality at-bats each and every time. Gardner is in the final year of his deal. And the Yankees will have a decision to make about whether or not to pick up Gardner’s option and bring him back to this young team.
It is no secret that Gardner is the leader and unofficial captain of this team. The question for the Yankees front office becomes just how much is his leadership worth? The Yankees have a slew of young outfielders waiting in the wings and chomping at the bit to get an opportunity. Last week Clint Frazier was recalled from Triple-A and made his 2018 season debut. Frazier got the start in only one game before being sent back down to Triple-A and Frazier hit a home run in his first at-bat back there.
In 40 games so far this season, Gardner is hitting and slugging well below his career norms. However, his On Base Percentage is precisely in line with those career averages. As a leadoff hitter, Gardner gives the team an opportunity to see what the opposing pitcher has that day. Brett continually works long pesky at-bats that disrupt the rhythm and tempo that a pitcher tries to set to start out the game.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone has been very consistent with the top two spots in his lineup. Day in and day out Brett Gardner followed by Aaron Judge. Gardner’s approach is the same he does not chase pitches outside of the zone. This is proven by his ”O-Swing Percentage” of 18% which is third best in the Major Leagues behind only the Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto (16.9%) and Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer (15.5%).
Gardner also provides ”Gold Glove” caliber defense in Left Field and in Center. This type of versatility does not usually come easy or cheap in this game, but Brett’s $12.5 million option can be seen as almost a bargain compared to other outfielders of his caliber.
Now the downside of the Brett Gardner argument is that Brett is 34 years old, and will be 35 before season’s end. Aging veterans are always a tricky investment. Then when you place on top of that fact that Gardner seems to fade down the stretch every season. It is difficult to imagine that changing at age 35-36.
Brett plays hard and sacrifices his body quite a bit in the field and on the basepaths. This gritty, gutty grinder type of play has become synonymous with Gardner. But it is also what hurts him. When you pair his normal post All-Star game slide and his rough start this season, it is difficult to imagine the Yankees recommitting to Gardner.
The Yankees will keep Brett Gardner in the fold for this season, even if he continues to struggle. However, the Yankees will see Gardner’s $2.5 million buyout as a better investment in their future. With young outfielders aplenty in this minors. This will more than likely be Gardner’s final season in the Bronx.