As the New York Yankees are in the midst of heated pennant race, the off-season seems far away. That being said, once fee agency begins, they will set their sights on improving their starting pitching. That will be the top concern, but they need to prioritize another move: re-signing outfielder Brett Gardner.
Coming off a game Saturday where he made a great catch in center field and recorded his second two-home-run game in five days, it is evident that he is the heart and soul of this team.
“He’s one of those players that players like because they see how he cares and he grinds, and everyday he comes to work.,” said Michael Kay of Gardner during Saturday’s YES Network telecast. “He’s not there for his brand, he’s not there to get endorsements, he’s not there for social media, he is there to play baseball and win.”
Every team needs a leader, and Gardner is the unquestioned leader of the Yankees. The team understands this as evident by their prompt re-signing of him last off season, and he has rewarded them with a solid season worthy of another contract.
Coming into this season, Brett Gardner was not expected to see a lot of playing time. He was expected to be a team leader, but fill in as a fourth outfielder. 2018 was one of Gardner’s worst at the plate. He posted a .236/.322/.368 slash line, all of which were career lows among his seasons with at least 100 games played.
Entering play Saturday, Gardner has accumulated 500 plate appearances in 128 games, much more than initially expected. He has brought stability to the Yankee outfield in 2019. His slash line sits at .244/.320/.483. His .803 OPS is a career-best for all seasons in which he played at least 100 games. Additionally, he has hit a career-high 23 home runs (with numbers 24 and 25 coming in Saturday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays).
Not only has his offensive production improved, but he has provided plenty of exciting clutch moments, as well.
Gardner won a Gold Glove in 2016, and he continues to play that caliber of defense. His defensive runs saved sits at four on the season between center and left field. In over 1,068 innings, he has only committed one error this year.
The best ability is availability. Despite a brief injured list stint, Gardner has spent the most time patrolling the outfield of any Yankee this season.
The expected starting outfield in Spring Training consisted of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton. Gardner has played 37 more games than Judge, 69 more games than Hicks, and 119 more games than Stanton.
Although he is 35 years old, Gardner is proving he can still play everyday and be productive. Now with Mike Tauchman‘s season coming to an end after a calf strain, this trend will continue for Gardner as the playoffs roll around.
Brett Gardner is set to hit free agency after this season. While the Yankees have a bevy of options to replace him, re-signing him needs to be a priority. Don’t let the bat banging in the dugout distract from who he is at the core. This man is still the utmost professional.
Gardner plays the game the right way. He plays hard, and he plays to win. He provides clutch performances at the plate and in the field. His presence has been a tremendous asset to the younger players coming through the Yankee farm system.
Throw in the fact that Gardner clearly has fuel left in the tank, and it is evident that re-signing him needs to be a priority for the Yankee off season.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images