To say that Brett Gardner has exceeded expectations for the 2010 season would be an incredible understatement. Not counting the game yesterday–in which he did well–Gardner has a .365 wOBA and has already racked up 4.9 fWAR thanks to a near 30 point jump in wOBA from .337 to .365 along with a ridiculous 17.5 FLD mark.
We should note that Gardner’s BABIP has also jumped to .345 from .311 last year, but he’s also slightly improved his LD% and lowered his FB%. His strikeout rate has jumped up from 16.1 to 20.3%, but his walk rate has also gone up to 14.1, from 9.2, making for a rise in BB/K from .65 to .82. Brett Gardner has made himself into an above average left fielder.
Chances are the Yankees weren’t counting on getting this sort of production out of their left fielder. I’m not thinking their expectations were awful and that they didn’t see improvement coming, but this type of value from Gardner is at least a bit of a surprise.
What makes Gardner more valuable is that he’s producing like crazy and only taking in $425,500 this. Per FanGraphs, Gardner has produced a dollar amount of $19.4M, giving the Yankees a whole bunch of savings on their left fielder. Not only is Gardner coming as a bargain in 2010, but he’s likely saving the Yankees a bunch of money in future seasons.
Had Gardner not played an at least league average left field at the plate (we knew he could do it in the field) the Yankees may have been forced to spend some money. Having already traded Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson and lacking any outfielders in the minors who could outproduce Gardner, the Yankees likely would’ve made a run at Carl Crawford. While it’d be nice to have Crawford, he simply doesn’t have a place on the team.
All of the outfielders on the Yankees are under contract and there’s really not much reason to trade any of them (this is without considering the more field related issues of signing Crawford, but that’s for another time). Despite bouncing back of late, Curtis Granderson’s value might not be all that high on the trade market right now. Nick Swisher…well, why would you trade him? That’s just silly. The only one who could be open for trading is Brett Gardner.
As a young, cost controlled player–he’s not arbitration eligible until 2012–who’s shown the ability to hit and field well at the Major League level, Brett Gardner has a good amount of trade value. Surely, he wouldn’t be the centerpiece to bring in a better prospect or a solid veteran, but he could make a decent trade package a very good one. It’s also very possible that, to the Yankees, Gardner gives them a better value than the player he’d be hypothetically traded for would. After all, just look at the value I pointed out above. Because of his contract status and his apparent improvement, the Yankees seemingly have something they haven’t had in a while: a solid young outfielder who isn’t expensive.
If the Yankees get blown away by an offer for Gardner, they should definitely take it. However, I don’t think Gardner will be traded this winter. He’s matured as a player and proven himself at the Major League level and has earned his spot going forward.
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