The Yankees are going to have to make some interesting moves regarding their outfield this offseason now that center fielder Aaron Hicks is out until mid-season recovering from surgery. There are plenty of great options on the free-agent market when it comes to outfielders, yet, simply put, the Yankees must re-sign Brett Gardner.
Brett Gardner made $7.5 million in 2019 and hit the most home runs of his career (28) while playing in 141 games for the injury-riddled New York Yankees outfield. Outside of the fact that he’s coming off of one of the best seasons of his career, Gardner provides irreplaceable veteran experience in the clubhouse and on the field. Along with CC Sabathia, Gardner has played a critical role in grooming the young Yankees into what they are now. This is not to say that young stars like Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Luis Severino couldn’t handle themselves, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a guy like Gardner in the clubhouse.
On top of the incredibly valuable presence he offers as a teammate, since 2010 when Gardner basically became an everyday player, he had averaged 135 games per season. That average would be a little higher if it wasn’t for the outlier of 2012 in which he played only 16 games due to a right elbow injury. If you take away that season, he has averaged 148 games per season since 2010. The point is that the Yankees can always count on him being there to start games or to backup. He did a tremendous job last season filling in for Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton who all spent lots of time on the IL.
Lastly, Gardner has played in 61 postseason games over 16 series including one World Series that he won in 2009 with the Yankees. Gardner has more playoff experience than most players in MLB right now. In the postseason, that knowledge and skill carries that much more weight.
Here’s a perfect example of what Gardner brings to the table in a big game. The at-bat in this video is nearly ten minutes long. I would assume most know the result of this at-bat in the 2017 ALDS, but the length of it goes to show you how Gardner might have been the only Yankee on the roster able to scratch a hit off of Cody Allen in this spot.
There are indeed other good outfielders available like Yasiel Puig, Avisail Garcia, Adam Jones, and Domingo Santana. While all of those have the potential to produce more than Gardner in his age-36 season, none of them can bring the experience, veteran leadership, and clubhouse personality that Gardner offers. To be honest, none of them played significantly better than Gardner did in 2019 either.
If the Yankees re-signed Gardner, he’d be rejoining the Yankees for his 13th year with the franchise and would again be the longest-tenured Yankee, a title he has held for a while now.