Over the last couple of years, fan favorite outfielder Brett Gardner has been the subject of numerous trade rumors. There has been endless speculation about him being traded to teams like the Orioles, the Angels, and the Giants, teams that are looking for an outfielder who has demonstrated the ability to get on base. The interesting thing is that we know Gardner has been on the trading block because we have heard it directly from Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
Cashman has been unusually open and candid about potentially moving Gardner. For reference, he once did an interview with radio personality Chris “Mad Dog” Russo in the wake of the trade that brought Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. At that point, it was well known that Gary Sheffield’s days in pinstripes were numbered, as he did not like being used as a first baseman in 2006. Despite the obvious impending trade, Cashman refused to comment on whether Sheffield would be back in 2007.
After the Yankees resigned Aroldis Chapman in December, Cashman told reporters that the bulk of the Yankees’ offseason moves were done unless he traded Gardner. At the time, it seemed bizarre that a GM was so transparent about shopping one of his players. By all accounts, Gardner does not seem to be an excessively egotistical player. But it is unlikely that he is ecstatic about being shopped so publicly.
One potential explanation is that Brian Cashman is simply an open and candid person. In 2013, he famously told Alex Rodriguez to curtail his social media presence, albeit in more profane terms. In the 2010-2011 offseason, he allegedly told Derek Jeter to his face that he would rather have Troy Tulowitzki playing shortstop for the Yankees, a comment that was said to raise tensions between the front office and the Captain while he was a free agent.
But it is also possible that Cashman’s transparency regarding Gardner is part of something bigger. Cashman has also been known to play chess as a GM, and isn’t afraid to use the media to his advantage. Before the 2011 season, he had dinner with then free agent Carl Crawford, which may have forced the Red Sox to pay more for the speedy outfielder. Cashman later admitted that the Yankees never had any interest in signing Crawford, describing Gardner as being a similar player.
By being so public about potentially moving Gardner, Cashman may be detracting from the leverage he has as a GM. If other GM’s know that he wants to move Gardner, they might be less likely to part with valuable prospects. On the other hand, MLB GM’s are capable of putting two and two together. It is common knowledge that the Yankees are trying to shed salary and have a crowded outfield, so it would be tough for Cashman to keep his willingness to trade Gardner a secret anyway.
On the other hand, when other teams think of high profile trade targets, Gardner is probably not the first one to come to mind. Players like Adam Eaton, JD Martinez, and Charlie Blackmon are probably considered to be a tier above Gardner when it comes to outfielders who are on the trade market. By talking about trading Gardner so publically, Cashman may be drawing attention to him without outwardly saying, “Please take this contract off our hands.”
In any case, the trade rumors surrounding Gardner provide some interesting insight into the life of a General Manager. There is much more to the job than simply signing free agents and accepting or rejecting trades. When it comes to getting the right deal, every little push helps.