Alive and well. The Yankees have gotten a healthy return for one of the most underappreciated NY outfielders in years. How has an athlete made $40 million in NYC to date and flown under the radar? More surprisingly, how has he done so while outperforming it? Half way through their current deal, I can assess Brett Gardner’s contract as alive and well for the Yanks.
WAR. Battling injuries, Gardner still managed to put up wins above replacement of 2.6 and 2.4 for 2015 & 2016 according to Fangraphs. He’s forecasted to maintain above 2.0, as they represent his 2 lowest in seasons of at least 110 games played. At 33 a steep decline is not expected and he’s consistently produced the last 4 years. If the decline but relative consistency continues to 2.2 and 2.0, he’ll have delivered 9.2 wins for $52 million. Based on deals signed in 2014’s off-season (when Gardner signed his 4yr extension beginning in 2015), the market rate for WAR was argued to be $6million per win added. This market rate has since gone up, making Gardner well worth his current contract. Neither of these control for the team’s market (nor the fact the Yankees are more known for lopsided missteps like Jacoby Ellsbury’s player-friendly contract), making this seem more like a bargain for New York.
Skills. He has plus speed, the ability to play multiple OF positions, and enough versatility to add value in all three phases of the game. He also avoids bad publicity as a high character guy, as exhibited by one of my favorite Yankee stories to this day found here: https://www.guideposts.org/positive-living/inspiring-entertainment/sports/hope-for-a-homer.
More Stats. His batting average from 2014-2016 and OBP both increase with runners on base. He also consistently is among the league leaders in pitches seen per plate appearance, working the count and helping chase starters earlier in games. Lastly, he provides veteran leadership with World Series experience on a team with a lot of youth currently.
Dok’s Sign Off. Confession: I’ve been a checking up on Gardner since I first saw his hustle and well-rounded play on a Bronx Bombers team in the late 2000s. Since then, he’s put up about 30 WAR and above-average play for a team not used to paying pennies for a dollar. Whether looking at advanced sabermetrics, versatility, intangibles, or scouting between the lines, Brett Gardner slides in safely as a steal for the Yanks.