The New York Yankees are bringing back long-term outfielder Brett Gardner on a one-year deal. However, the Bombers may regret this decision.
The first Spring Training games are less than a week away, and the New York Yankees are still making moves. This time, they’re bringing back veteran Brett Gardner on a one-year pact with an option for next season. Unfortunately for the Bombers, bringing back Gardner may not be the best idea for this year.
Gardner’s Yankees Decline
Gardner has been around since 2008 and has spent his entire professional career in the pinstripes. Overall, he’s had a solid major league career, hitting to a .259 career average and a .343 on-base percentage. He’s also hit 129 career homers. Over the past few years, however, Gardner’s seemed to be on a decline. In 2021, Gardner had a .223 average, despite a very solid .354 OBP. He had a 110 wRC+ and a .332 wOBA. Over the past five years, Gardner’s wRC+ has hovered between 90 to 115.
Overall, those aren’t terrible numbers for a fourth outfielder, but the Yankees already have a fourth outfielder and an up-and-coming starting outfielder who’s a lot younger and cheaper: Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier.
Tauchman’s and Frazier’s Rise
As for Tauchman, he’s not insanely young, despite being a full-time big-leaguer just recently in 2019. However, for a 30-year-old, Tauchman’s shown good progress in being a back-up outfield piece. Tauchman hit .242 with a .342 OBP in just 111 plate appearances. He was better in 2019, spotting a .361 OBP with 13 home runs in 87 games. The addition of Brett Gardner will continue to limit Tauchman’s playing time, who is just as good, if not better, than Gardner.
As for Frazier, we’ve seen the righty-hitting left fielder break out a season ago. Frazier hit .267 with a great on-base percentage of .394. He hit eight bombs and drove in 26 RBI, all of which is just 160 at-bats. Knowing how the Yankees are always dependent on match-ups if the Yankees exchange a hot-hitting Clint Frazier to the bench for Gardner in 2021, it may work out very poorly in terms of production and stunting Frazier’s development.
The one positive about Gardner is that he plays at least 140 games a season. Knowing how injury-prone Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks are, it’s good to have another body in uniform in case those players go down. However if the Yankees begin to depend on Gardner over Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, or another player with a better skillset, it will almost definitely hurt the Bombers. This was the Yankees’ chance to move on from their long-term outfielder, and keeping him around may have negative implications.