Friday, January 17, 2014

Yankees Should Trade Brett Gardner

With Alex Rodriguez's fate all but sealed, the New York Yankees can get back to the business of preparing for the 2014 season.

And despite their massive, ill-conceived, pre-Christmas spending spree, the Yankees still have a ton of work to do.

The Yankees are pursuing Japanese phenom Mashiro Tanaka to bolster the rotation. The bullpen needs a veteran presence to support likely closer David Robertson. Third base is a huge question mark with A-Rod's suspension. And the outfield remains overload, despite releasing Vernon Wells on Thursday.

Yep. Brian Cashman has his hands full.

But let's focus on the outfield.

Even with Wells' departure, the Yankees still have Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner on the roster. That's five players for three outfield spots and shared time at designated hitter with Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann.

Simply put, the Yankees have too many assets in the outfield and too many glaring needs elsewhere.

Moves have to be made.

Ideally, the Yankees would be able to trade Ichiro. At 40 years old, he is but a shadow of what he was in his prime. Then again, at 40, I, too, am but a shadow of what I once was.

In 150 games last year, Ichiro had 136 hits, a .262 batting average, .297 on-base percentage and 1.4 WAR. He's just not an everyday player anymore and $6.5 million is a lot to tie up on a bench player.

Teams have been checking out Ichiro, but the reality the former All-Star and future Hall of Famer just isn't going bring much back in return. A serviceable reliever might be the best-case scenario.

But the Yankees have another chip they can and should move.

The Yankees should trade Gardner.

Look, I like Gardner. I'd love for him to be a career Yankees. He's a Gold Glove-caliber outfield, a capable hitter who works pitchers and gets on base, and a dangerous baserunner who makes the Yankees' offense much more dynamic.

And he's entering his walk year with what likely will be a team-friendly salary in the range of $5 million. His trade value will never be higher.

Gardner is coming off a strong season in which he hit .273, with 81 runs, 33 doubles, 10 triples, a .344 OBP, .759 OPS and 4.2 WAR. For his career, Gardner is a .268 hitter with 23 homers, a .352 OBP, .733 OPS and 19.3 WAR over six seasons.

That compares favorably with Michael Bourne, who signed a 4-year, $48 million contract in 2013, and Ellsbury, who signed a 7-year, $153 million deal this offseason.

Bourne's career numbers: .271 BA, 28 HRs, .335 OBP, .700 OPS and 22.3 WAR in eight seasons.

Ellsbury's: .297 BA, 65 HRs, .350 OBP, .789 OPS and 21.0 WAR over seven seasons.

That makes Gardner valuable on the trade market. The Reds, Tigers and Phillies reportedly are among a half-dozen teams that have expressed in the Yankees' outfielder. And with that amount of interest in Gardner, Cashman could leverage a deal that would bring back something quality in return, either in the form of an established major leaguer or a prospect who is a year away from the majors.

Look, if the Yankees believe Gardner is going to be part of their of their long-term plan, they should give him a contract extension now. The Bourne and Ellsbury contracts likely will set the market for Gardner at around $16 million or $17 million per year (yes, the Ellsbury contract will pull up Gardner's value significantly from Bourne's $12 million per year).

But if the Yankees aren't sure about keeping Gardner or intend to let him leave after the season because his skills overlap with Ellsbury, they have to move now. Is it better to get a first-round pick if the Yankees give Gardner a qualifying offer and he leaves after the season, or is it better to get major-league talent in a trade?

This isn't an easy decision for Cashman. They Yankees are better with Gardner this year, but a general manager also has to keep an eye on the future.

And if Gardner is not in the Yankees' plans for the future, Cashman needs to make a move that will bring back something more significant for the future than a draft pick.


Dave said...

Only the Yanks would sign someone who is basically a replica of the outfielder they already have...except he costs over 4x as much.

And be careful about trading Gardner...Ellsbury is always one step away from missing half the season.

Unknown said...

If they Yanks are planning on letting Gardner walk after the season anyway, that doesn't really solve the issue of Ellsbury's injuries in the long term. Perhaps by trading Gardner, they can bring back a young outfielder who can provide that insurance. Or perhaps Zoilo Almonte, who looked pretty good last year in limited time with the Yankees, can serve in the backup role as well. Either way, Ellsbury's health is an issue the Yankees can't avoid.

Anonymous said...

Ah wait a minute here. Both posts talk about Injuries. Ellsbury has two injuries both because he hit a wall and hit another player. Stop with this injury prone player. Jeter missed a season (almost) due to a shoulder separation from diving in the stands He is praised (I love Jete) but Ellsbury is vilified STOP!
If like Tex Ellsbury has a bunch of injuries then complain but right now heres a guy who lead the Red Sox to a World Series. Lets be positive.

Dave said...

I would answer that by saying that other players hit other players and/or run into walls and do not go down for over half the season each time. I'm not saying he isn't a good player - he is. I have loved watching him come up through the Boston system. But he is vulnerable to injuries. That's not a dig on him - just the truth.

Unknown said...

Prior to last season, the most significant time that Jeter has missed was in 2003, when he was on the DL for six weeks after dislocating his shoulder with a catcher on a steal attempt of third on Opening Day (he played still played 119 games that year), and in 2011 when he was out for a month with a calf injury. In 2004, when he made the dive into the stands, he played 154 games.

Prior to coming to the Yankees, Teixeira had been on of the more durable players in the game, playing no fewer than 132 games in a season and playing in the full 162 in 2005 and '06. In his first three season with the Yankees, he played 156, 158 and 156 games.

Ellsbury, by comparison, played in only 18 games in 2010 because of because of the aforementioned collision with Adrian Beltre, who played 154 games that season. Els played in only 74 games in 2012 because of a separated shoulder (similar Jeter's '03 injury) sustained in a slide into second. And last season, he spend time on the DL because of a compression fracture in his foot.

Ellsbury plays hard. He is a terrific player. But his body had gotten beaten up, and you have to be concerned about that.