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The Yankees should keep Brett Gardner

With plenty of veterans on the roster who played the outfield in 2013, the Yankees could think Brett Gardner is more luxury than necessity. But they would be mistaken.

Al Bello

Almost immediately after the announcement of Carlos Beltran agreeing to become the next fancy new Yankees signing, the gears started churning in the heads of the media and fans. Thoughts went to what the Yankees could get for Brett Gardner via trade, both due to being one of the Yankees few attractive trade pieces at the major league level and being an outfielder with skills that were supposedly redundant next to new centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. To their credit the Yankees have said they're not shopping Gardner, but that would be a pretty normal response about any player under contract. They would be wise to not part with him since the team's outfielding situation is still far from ideal.

Considering the nature of the injuries that have befallen Jacoby Ellsbury (collisions and the like), I think it's fair to pencil him in every day in 2014 without much reservation. But aside from he and Gardner, there's nothing but question marks in the Yankees outfield. Zoilo Almonte could provide some young depth, but it's unknown if he's even a MLB-caliber talent. Vernon Wells probably should have been cut several times over already. Ichiro Suzuki provides value with his speed and defense but has fallen so far as a hitter (71 wRC+ in '13) that any role beyond pinch hitter or runner would be a mistake.

That would leave left and right field in the Gardner-less scenario to Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran, who will be 38 and 37 respectively in the 2014 season. The older Soriano is the less concerning of the two as he has both managed to maintain his health and remain an adequate fielder to this point, but age is always something to be wary of. Beltran is another situation entirely. Beltran's -15.3 UZR in 2013 was fourth-worst among all qualified fielders, and with a history of injuries to his knees his fielding prowess is likely to get worse before it gets better. It would behoove the Yankees to view Beltran as more of a primary DH than an everyday outfielder not only for maintaining defensive quality but keeping Beltran as fresh as possible.

The Yankees definitely have other pressing matters with their roster, but part of making this a playoff-caliber roster is not filling one hole while opening others. As more and more rumors surface regarding Gardner, I fear the Yankees are in the process of talking themselves into the viability of an Ellsbury/Soriano/Beltran outfield in 2014 (or one involving Ichiro. Yikes.). I just don't see the risks of taking such a course outweighing the rewards. Hang on to Gardner and maintain what would be an outstanding defensive outfield. I know it's tempting to dangle one of your only trade assets, but as the roster is currently constructed this team still has both plenty of use and need for Brett Gardner. This team needs to improve, not make lateral movements.