Brett Gardner continues to be a spark plug for the Yankees. That’s why it’s time for Brian Cashman to give the veteran one more year in the Bronx.
When the Yankees elected to give Brett Gardner a one-year deal last winter most people assumed 2019 would be his last season in New York. Instead, the team’s longest-tenured player has played well enough to earn another season in pinstripes.
The plan for Gardner heading into the season was for him to be the team’s fourth outfielder. As usual in MLB, the best-laid plans for the Yankees were quickly laid to waste. Injuries to Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton during the first half of the season forced the 35-year-old outfielder to be a consistent starter in Aaron Boone’s lineup.
Fortunately for the Yankees, that’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Gardner isn’t the team’s best player, but he gives the team a few things that no one else on the roster can. First and foremost, Gardner’s speed puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Even at his advanced age he still has the ability to steal extra bases at a surprising rate.
That speed also allows him to continue to serve the Yankees as an above average defensive player. His ability to play any of the three outfield positions makes him a valuable substitute on Boone’s bench. There’s no one else on the current roster who can man all three spots as well as Gardner.
Perhaps more importantly, he’s been a much more dangerous hitter than anyone expected this season. Through July 12, Gardner is posting an excellent OPS of .811. Neither his batting average or power number stand out when viewed as individual numbers, but the former College of Charleston star is doing just enough of everything to profile as an above-average offensive outfielder.
Gardner’s age is certainly an issue, but his excellent play this year clearly shows that he’s still capable of being a valuable member of the Yankees roster. That’s why GM Brian Cashman should open up the team’s checkbook and give him another one-year deal. There’s no rush for the team to make that move, but it should be a part of the organization’s short-term plans.
Keeping Gardner in the fold for another year would also buy time for the Yankees’ top prospect, Estevan Florial, to develop in the minors. He entered the 2019 season with high expectations, but the first half of his campaign was derailed due to injury. The sheer amount of time he missed this season will likely push him another season away from arriving in the majors.
Of course, the Yankees could always choose to dip into free agency to find their fourth outfielder next season, but the best candidate to fill that role will be looking for multi-year contracts. Gardner, in sharp contrast, will likely be willing to accept another one-year deal at a reasonable salary. That will be the right move for Cashman and his front office this offseason.