Since the addition of Jacoby Ellsbury, the buzz related to Brett Gardner‘s availability has heated up. It’s all just speculation and rumors, but there seems to be some logic to it. The Yankees now have four starting-caliber outfielders, and players all over the roster that will need time as designated hitter. This doesn’t make Gardner the odd man out, as guys like Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano will DH frequently, but it does make Gardner appear expendable from an outsider’s perspective. Yet, Brian Cashman hasn’t stated his intent to move the speedy outfielder, to no ones surprise. Even if he is looking to make a deal, he’s going to attempt to maintain his poker face in the public eye. For now, his stance is as follows:
“The only way I’m interested in moving Brett Gardner is – it’ll be tough – somehow feeling that we’re putting ourselves in the position to feel better about us in the short- and long-term.”
It certainly makes sense for Cashman to field offers for Gardner. Perhaps there’s a club that gets a little desperate. There’s always a point at which a team will move any player – it just takes the right offer. Still, Gardner has been one of the team’s more valuable assets the past few seasons. It wouldn’t be easy to part ways with him, so let’s examine the pros and cons of him not being around in 2014.
- A rival general manager makes an overwhelming offer – duh.
- The second most obvious benefit – filling a pressing need in the rotation and/or infield.
- Leveraging off the previous point – he might be the best trade chip they have, outside of Ivan Nova and Gary Sanchez. Of the three, Gardner seems most superfluous, meaning he could be the greatest opportunity to improve the team via trade.
- Getting something in return before free agency – Gardner’s entering his final season of control, and probably won’t be brought back with Ellsbury in tow.
- He’s redundant with Ellsbury now on the roster. Gardner is best suited to play centerfield, as it is a position that prioritizes defense over offense.
- Gardner is no stranger to injury. He had an oblique issue in September, causing him to miss fifteen games. In 2012, he missed nearly all of the season due to elbow surgery.
- A bit of a reach, but moving him might help relieve what is a lefty-heavy lineup.
- Gardner is good insurance for an injury to Ellsbury. After Gardner, there is no true center fielder or leadoff hitter on the roster. One might suggest Derek Jeter as an alternate at the top of the lineup, but it’s hard to count on him at this point.
- Weakening the outfield defense – the duo of Ellsbury and Gardner in center and left field would cover a lot of ground.
- On days Soriano and Beltran are flanked alongside Ellsbury, Gardner would make an excellent late game defensive replacement. This isn’t a major issue with moving Gardner, though, as Ichiro Suzuki is a fine defender off the bench. The same ideology applies to utilizing Gardner as a pinch runner.
- He’s cost-effective. Matt Swartz’ projects a $4M salary through arbitration.
Gardner’s been a solid contributor during his Yankees’ tenure. I mentioned the difficulty of replacing him in a piece about dangling him earlier this offseason, but now that they have a viable option in center, there’s no better time to at least consider moving him. Cashman is taking the right strategy in stating that he’ll only move him if it makes the club better.
I wouldn’t be annoyed if the Yankees kept Gardner, because he could still be deployed effectively in a number of ways in 2014. Because of this, the front office is in the driver’s seat in this situation. If he’s kept, the Yankees would still have a three win player on their hands. If not, it means the Yankees probably acquired a mid-rotation starter and/or infield help. Either fate should produce a positive outcome for the team.
Photo by Keith Allison (It’s at Flickr posted as Brett Gardner) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons