When the Yankees re-signed Brett Gardner to a 1-year deal in the off-season for 7.5 million dollars, there were a lot of disgruntled fans. Gardner was 35 at the time, and was coming off a season in which he hit only .236/.322/.368, which lead to a below average 91 wRC+ (9% below league average). His defense, however, was still an asset, and at the very least, he was a great option to be a fourth outfielder for the 2019 team. Fans were afraid of blocking Clint Frazier, but in my mind, we needed some type of stability in left field. The team didn’t want to play Stanton in the field every day, and with Gardner’s good defense and clubhouse leadership, I thought it was a great signing. Fast forward to September 2019, the signing turned out to be an absolute steal.
Gardner used to be a slash and dash kind of hitter, but as Scott and Andrew talked on the podcast a few weeks ago, he’s evolved over the years, and perhaps even more so recently. This is evidenced by Gardner’s pull percentage this season. He is pulling 46% of the balls he puts in play. His career pull percentage sits at 36%. This would explain the jump in power we’ve seen from Gardner this season. He’s pulling the ball more, and his numbers have benefited tremendously. His 26 home runs this season are a career high. Overall Gardner is hitting .254/.330/.508, good for a 118 wRC+. He has produced 3.6 WAR so far. Here are some of the names he is out-slugging: Bryce Harper, Michael Conforto, Luke Voit. Everyone is playing with the same juiced ball, so we are comparing apples to apples here. Gardner is having a fantastic offensive season. Plus, he makes up laugh by doing this:
Baserunning and Run Prevention
Gardner has also provided 2 things this season that he’s always provided: good defense and baserunning. Yes, he’s probably lost a step since his near 50 stolen base seasons, but he was still able to add 4.6 BsR (runs above average) on the base paths so far this year. As for his defense, he takes excellent routes, has an accurate arm, and rarely makes mistakes in the field. DRS says he’s been a +5 in the field this season, which is comfortably above average. He will probably be the primary center fielder in the playoffs due to all of the injuries, so we should be thankful we have such a sure handed backup centerfielder.
“I’ve had more fun playing baseball this year than I ever have.” That was what Gardner had to say after clinching the AL East. The Yankees should absolutely explore resigning him. Left field is a question mark without him. Clint Frazier has shown some extremely shaky defense, Stanton can’t play the field every day, and I doubt the Yankees are likely to hand a starting job to Mike Tauchman anytime soon (as good as he was this season). I think the Yankees will get something done with him in the 1 year/10 million dollar range. For his value and leadership, that’s still quite the bargain.