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The Yankees should bring Brett Gardner back in 2020

The veteran will hit free agency this winter and the Yanks will have to decide if they want him back in pinstripes.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

From speeding around the bases to banging his bat in the dugout, Brett Gardner has always been a fan-favorite since coming into the league in 2008. He’s not the young player we knew him then as, but Gardy has still been a vital part of the Yankees this year. He has shown off his versatility by splitting time in both left and center field, and is the only Yankee to bat in every single position of the batting order in 2019. Even at age 36, one can argue this has been his best season yet. With this being his last season under contract, the Yankees will have to decide if they want number 11 back in pinstripes in 2020.

Let’s start by looking at what he’s done for the Bombers with his bat. Gardner is slashing .254/.333/.485 with an OPS of .818. That slugging percentage of .485 is the highest it has ever been in his 10+ year career, and having smashed 18 homers thus far, he only needs four more long balls to surpass his season-high of 21 set back in 2017. Furthering his display of power in 2019, his ISO is .231. In no other season has it even touched .170.

Tt feels like every player on the Yankees has taken a trip to the injured list at some point this year (Gardner included), but he has really stepped up when needed. To prove how valuable Gardner has been to New York, his 3.0 fWAR is good for fourth on the team. He only trails DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Judge. Along with that, his 112 wRC+ is the eighth-best on the squad, and his .342 wOBA is ninth-best. Gardy has proven he can still run out there with the big dogs.

As we now take a trip to the basepaths to evaluate him there, there’s one thing we know for sure: Gardner is not the same elite base stealer he was in his younger days. However, he leads the team with nine and is definitely still a threat when he does get on base. Statcast has clocked his sprint speed at 28.9 feet per second. That ranks him in the 92nd percentile and the best for his age group.

Now to the defensive part of his game, where he’s played both center and right field. Gardy has been solid, racking up six defensive runs saved and a UZR of 4.8. While his arm isn’t the greatest, he makes up for it with his excellent sprint speed. His legs have helped him track down balls in the gap, and balls over his head. He’s made 74 plays out of his “zone” this year and 160 in his “zone,” resulting in a very respectable revised zone rating of .900.

Brett Gardner represents the heart and soul of the 2019 Yankees. His intense, old school play style has been able to rile up his teammates, coaches, and the fans. His bat banging has become a rallying cry for the guys, and they like to have fun with it. With Gardy being a pending free agent, he’s provided the Yankees with a multitude of reasons to bring him back next year. Although, New York may prefer to go younger and finally give Clint Frazier a real shot as a franchise piece. If Gardner keeps playing the way he is, Brian Cashman and his team will have a tough decision to make in the next few months.