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Yankees potential trade chip: Brett Gardner

Brett Gardner’s name hasn’t been attached to trade rumors to this point, but it may make sense for the Yankees to trade him.

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The rumors surrounding Yankees on the market have primarily been focused around big time relievers and starting pitchers, but those aren’t the only positions the team could deal from. Should the Yankees decide to go all in on selling, Brett Gardner could be a player they’d want to make available.

Gardner could help a contending team out by stepping right in as their starting center fielder. He doesn’t get to play that position on the Yankees because of the presence of Jacoby Ellsbury, so his value may be even higher to another team than it is presently. He may have lost a step, causing him to be more reluctant to steal bases these days, but he is still able to run down fly balls while playing a strong defense.

Offensively, Gardner has been the third best hitter on the Yankees in terms of fWAR behind Didi Gregorius and Carlos Beltran. He hasn’t done any one thing particularly well, with a 96 wRC+ and six home runs to this point, but he has been contributing. A .259/.352/.361 batting line isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it does show that Gardner is getting on base. A team with a strong middle of the order could use that at the top of their lineup.

Trading for Gardner would get a team multiple years of team control as well. The Yankees have Gardner under contract through the 2019 season on a team-friendly deal. His four-year/$52 million deal includes a team option for the final year. Any team he was traded to could then decide, based on his performance over the next couple seasons, whether to keep him around in 2019 or not.

The Yankees could survive parting with Gardner because they have a number of outfield prospects that could theoretically take his place. Ben Gamel, Jake Cave, Mason Williams, and Aaron Judge are all knocking on the door of the majors when healthy. Any one of them could step into the vacancy Gardner would leave, and having multiple options means that the Yankees could cycle through them until one proved he was worthy of a more permanent spot.

Gardner’s name hasn’t appeared in any trade talks to this point, so the team may not even be interested in parting with him. He does provide a bat at the top of the lineup that his replacements almost certainly wouldn’t. Unfortunately, his stolen bases have all but dried up. That might have been his biggest selling point in year’s past, but they are a rare occurrence these days. It may be difficult to market a speedy outfielder who refuses to show off said speed.

The Yankees probably won’t part with Gardner unless they decide to enter full fire sale mode. If they decide to hold on to players like Brian McCann and CC Sabathia instead of putting everything that isn’t nailed down on the block, Gardner will probably remain in pinstripes for the time being.

However, the team is in a unique position of having multiple prospects at the highest level of the minors without a place to go. Beltran will be a free agent at the end of the year if he isn’t traded before, and that will open one spot for Judge, presumably. Trading away Gardner would allow the crop of lesser prospects to have a chance to make it at the next level. If the team isn’t going to be overly competitive for the next couple seasons, that may be just the time to see what they have.

Do you think the Yankees should shop Gardner to other teams more aggressively, or should they hang onto him for the future?