Jobu weighs in on where current Yankees left fielder, Brett Gardner, should play in 2014.
As many of you know, the Yankees recently signed two outfielders to significant contracts. They picked up former Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven year deal for $153MM (with an 8th year option), and then turned around and signed former Royals, Astros, Mets, Giants and Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltrán to a three year, $45MM contract. When you consider the fact that the Yankees already have Alfonso Soriano on the roster, as well as the fact that Manager Joe Girardi likes to use the DH to rest his regulars, it would seem that someone might have to go to make all the pieces fit. Should Brett Gardner be that guy?
The Yankees Should Trade Gardner Because…
As I just mentioned, the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury. Although the Yankees haven’t announced this officially yet, the signing means that Gardner will no longer be starting in Center Field. With Beltran on board, and Soriano a holdover from last season, the Yankees have three outfielders under contract. They also have Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells under contract, with Zoilo Almonte probably also ready to step into a major league bench role. It would seem that the Yankees have too many outfielders in the mix. With other glaring needs, it seems wise to explore moving one of the extra pieces. Gardner has, by far, the most value of the tradable options.
Also, Gardner is slated to be a free agent after the 2014 season. Because they signed Ellsbury, it would seem that signing Gardner to an extension is probably not ideal, especially considering the fact that he’s probably looking a a four or five year deal worth over $10MM annually when he hits the market. If the Yankees decide to keep Gardner around, but don’t sign him to an extension, he’ll be eligible for a qualifying offer come next fall. One thing I will say for sure, is that he is not worth them spending $14.1MM for one year of his services, so they probably won’t be offering him the qualifier. That means that, when Gardner signs elsewhere, the Yankees will not receive a compensatory pick for him. He’ll leave, and the Yankees will get nothing in return.
Why not maximize his value and pull the trigger on a trade now? They’re going to lose him anyway, and the longer they wait to trade him, the less value he’ll have on the market (the longer the Yankees wait, the less time Gardner will be helping whatever team they trade him to.
The Yankees Should Not Trade Gardner Because…
The main question the Yankees need to ask themselves if they really want to trade Brett Gardner is “does trading Brett Gardner make us a better team than having him on the roster does?” Right now, as the roster stands, the Yankees will probably have Gardner in left, Ellsbury in center and Beltran in right, with Soriano acting as the DH. If they are only able to get a fourth starter, an average second baseman or maybe a reliever, does that make them better?
You can argue that right now, the Yankees don’t have a second baseman, a third baseman or a number four starter (assuming they’re letting Pineda, Phelps, Warren and Nuno duke it out in Spring Training for the fifth slot). Gardner represents a surplus, and therefore should be used as trade bait to fill one of the other gaping holes. You can also argue that, while keeping Gardner makes it harder for the Yankees to fill the rest of the infield, it does give them elite defense in the outfield, which makes them a better ball club on the field. Also, keeping Gardner gives them much needed insurance, in case last year happens again and the whole team ends up on the disabled list.
Think about it. The Yankees outfield, while powerful and acceptable defensively without Gardner in it, would be made up of two 38-year olds if Gardner were to be sent somewhere else. One of those 38-year olds (Beltran) has a history of knee issues that, although have remained dormant the last couple of seasons, could flare up at any point. By keeping Gardner, you end up with elite defenders in left and center, and you can use Soriano and Beltran as part time right fielder/designated hitters to keep them fresh throughout the season.
Here’s what I think. If the Yankees trade Gardner, whether alone or as part of a package, it should be for a no-brainer deal. If there’s even a little doubt about whether or not the deal makes the team better, then they shouldn’t make the deal. I’d rather deal with finding at bats for four good players, and keep Gardner’s elite defense and speed on the roster, than leaving the team without injury insurance and a mediocre infielder or pitcher.
Right now, this is a good problem to have, and it seems that, although they will listen to anyone who comes calling, the Yankees like the idea of Gardner and Ellsbury in the outfield and on the base paths, so they aren’t actively shopping the 31-year old. Like I said, if someone bowls them over with an offer, and they don’t make a move, then I might get upset. However, if they aren’t going to be significantly better, I’d rather them keep Gardy around and fill second base or third base and the rotation through free agency.
Plus, like the picture above says… somebody’s gotta do walk-off Gatorade baths!
UPDATE: The Yankees rejected a trade offer from the Reds that would have sent Brandon Phillips to the Bronx. Phillips’ contract extension demands may have been a factor in the deal not happening.
Featured image courtesy of: SS Baseball
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