There will be a few free agents in the Bronx following the 2014 season. This series of articles will take a look at the different players and what their future may be in pinstripes. First up is an endangered species in the Bronx, young AND homegrown! Brett Gardner is a fan favorite and a danger in the field, on base and anywhere near a Gatorade cooler.
Gardner has become a staple in the Yankees lineup over the last six years. He possesses blazing speed on the bases and plays terrific defense. He is .268 hitter all time and saw the most playing time of his young career in 2013 while hitting a career best 8 homers and an impressive .759 OPS. He was the most consistent player of an injury plagued, no name 2013 roster. His greatest quality was his downfall last season, he goes full speed during every play. He is like a gazelle in the outfield covering ground at an unreal speed. He gives 100% during every at bat and during every play in the field. Going so hard for so many games took its toll on his body toward the end and not surprisingly he wound up on the DL. With a crowded outfield this year, he shouldn’t have to play as much and that should help him stay healthy.
The addition of Jacoby Ellsbury can only help Gardner. Ellsbury stole a league leading 52 bases last year while Gardner only stole 24, respectable but nowhere near the 47 and 49 he stole in 2010 and 2011 respectively. He has a tendency to freeze and is often hesitant to steal, which is something he will need to fix to reach his full potential and make his case for a big pay day. The two of them on base at the same time will put fear in any pitcher and catcher. The possibility of double steals will always be in the back of opposing team’s minds. The two speedsters should push each other as well as learn from one another. Ellsbury’s huge contract could also help his pay day should the team decide to keep him.
Gardner will double his salary from 2013 after avoiding arbitration by agreeing to a deal worth $5.6 million earlier in the off season. It’s a very important year for him. He knows that if he can hit double digits home runs and hit a high .200 to .300 with 40+ SB’s, he could get a huge pay day. He will be hitting lower in the order and will be under the radar in a lineup with a lot of firepower and returning stars, which could work out in his favor. Look for Gardner to hit anywhere from 7 to 9 in the lineup and have one of the best years of his career.