Archive for Brett Gardner
The Yankees have spent roughly $62M this offseason, but the vast majority was spent on players who were with the team last season. Outside of various waiver claims and minor league contracts, Kevin Youkilis is the only new player the team has acquired this offseason. They downgraded in right field, downgraded behind the plate, and probably downgraded at third base as well. One spot where they did make an upgrade was left field, and they accomplished that without even making a roster move.
Last season, New York’s left fielders managed a .253/.315/.444 (103 wRC+) batting line that was highly dependent on the power of Raul Ibanez and (first half) Andruw Jones. Depending on your fielding metric of choice, the club’s left fielders were either very good (+12.2 UZR), average (+0 Total Zone), or a bit below-average (-2 DRS) defensively. I tend to agree with Total Zone and DRS on this one, especially since Ichiro Suzuki only started 26 games in left following the trade. Between the offense and defense, the Yankees basically had a league average (or slightly worse) left field unit last season.
Of course, the only reason the team had to rely on guys like Ibanez and Ichiro last season was because Brett Gardner hurt his elbow barely a week into the season. He missed almost the entire year, save for a handful of at-bats down the stretch. Gardner, 29, is no star, but the lack of outfield defense and overall team speed was painfully obvious while he was out of action. His ability to work the count — we’re talking high-end walk (11.0%) and pitches per plate appearance (4.29) rates for his career — was noticeably absent as well. The Yankees lost a lot when he got hurt, no doubt about it.
Super early ZiPS projections pegged Gardner as a true talent .259/.355/.362 hitter heading into next season, which is right in line with nearly league average career performance (.266/.355/.368, 98 wRC+). I don’t think we’re ever going to see a repeat of the .277/.383/.379 (112 wRC+) line he put up back in 2010, but he’s also not at an age where a performance drop-off would be expected. Heck, at age 29 Gardner is more likely to outperform his projection than fall short. The left field offense was about league average and power heavy last season, with Gardner it will be about league average and on-base heavy. If I had to pick between the two, I’d take the latter.
The upgrades on defense and on the bases will be drastic. Not only does Gardner average 47 steals per 162 games, he’s also taken the extra base (first-to-third on a single, etc.) a whopping 51% of the time in his career. That’s far better than the league average (~40%). In the field he’s a defensive monster, a true ballhawk who should (and hopefully will) play center field and push Curtis Granderson to left this coming season. The various metrics have rated Gardner at roughly 20 runs better than the average left fielder in recent years, and even with the shift the center he should still be good for +10 runs or so. The overall shape of that left field production will be so much different, going from all-power and no speed or defense to no-power, OBP, speed and defense.
As I said before, Youkilis is the only notable new player the Yankees have brought in this offseason, and the only reason they signed him was because Alex Rodriguez got hurt. Maybe they would have pumped that $12M into someone else had A-Rod not blown out his left hip, but we’ll never know. Any shot at overall team improvement in 2013 will come from the guys who were here in 2012 improving their performance. It doesn’t stand out as a “move” because no one was acquired via trade or signed as a free agent, but swapping Ibanez & Co.’s one dimensional game for Gardner’s speed, defense, and willingness to work the count stands to be New York’s biggest upgrade of the winter.
At some point in the next few weeks, the Yankees will get around to acquiring a regular DH and a right-handed platoon bat to pair with their all-left-handed hitting outfield. They might even acquire a real starting catcher, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. The third base and right field holes have been addressed with the signings of Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki, respectively, so the heavy lifting on the position player side of things is already complete.
Youkilis and Suzuki could not be any more different offensively, yet they both bring valuable skills. Youkilis doesn’t have the power he once did, but he’s still crazy patient and will provide tough at-bats each time up. Ichiro is a powerless speed-and- contact machine who puts the ball in play and dares the defense to convert it into an out before he reaches first base. Both guys are offensively valuable in their own way, and they both possess skills that allow them to hit in different batting order spots without looking out of place.
If the season started today, it’s fair to say that Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson would occupy the three-four-five spots in the lineup in whatever order. The catcher presumably bats ninth. Assuming Derek Jeter‘s fractured ankle heals up in time for Opening Day, he’ll bat either first or second no questions asked. That leaves the Yankees with this basic lineup structure…
- Jeter or ?
- Jeter or ?
- Cano, Tex, or Grandy
- Cano, Tex, or Grandy
- Cano, Tex, or Grandy
- Not Russell Martin
One of those ?s will go to Brett Gardner, two others to Youkilis and Ichiro. The other goes to the DH, whoever that ends up being. Ichiro initially batted towards the bottom of the order after coming to New York at midseason, but he eventually hit his way into the two-spot behind Jeter. Youkilis, on the other hand, also hit second with the White Sox after they acquired him from the Red Sox. They both have number two hitter profiles, it just depends on whether your a traditionalist (Ichiro) or saber-slanted (Youkilis).
Before we move any further, let’s quickly look at some platoon data…
|wRC+ vs. LHP (2012)||wRC+ vs. RHP (2012)||wRC+ vs. LHP (2010-2012)||wRC+ vs. RHP (2010-2012)|
First off, ignore Gardner’s splits for this season because he barely played (only 37 plate appearances). Other than that, there are some rather drastic platoon splits here, particularly with Jeter and Youkilis. Those two destroy southpaws but aren’t nearly as productive against righties. Ichiro is worse off against lefties (especially of late) while Gardner shows almost no split. That info should be a consideration when Joe Girardi fills out his lineup card.
Given their mammoth production against southpaws, it seems pretty obvious that Jeter and Youkilis should bat one-two whenever there’s a left-hander on the mound. Assuming the Yankees sign a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon with their left-handed outfield bats, that guy could hit sixth while either Gardner or (preferably) Ichiro sits. The DH goes seventh (that could be another platoon situation as well), the not-sitting outfielder eighth. That part is simple, but the lineup against righties isn’t as straight forward.
For one, Jeter’s platoon split is irrelevant. He’s going to bat first or second no matter what because he’s Derek frickin’ Jeter. Given Youkilis’ decline against same-side pitchers in recent years, he’s not the ideal two-hole hitter even though his production against righties is the best of the quartet’s over the last three seasons. Ichiro has the veteran clout over Gardner even though he may be a lesser hitter at the moment. Girardi could go with Jeter at leadoff and either Ichiro or Gardner at two against righties, or he could go Gardner or Ichiro at leadoff with Jeter at two to break up the lefties near the middle of the order.
Although Gardner is not the hitter for average that Ichiro is, he’s far better at getting on-base. He hasn’t had a sub-.345 OBP since his partial rookie season in 2008 while Ichiro hasn’t been above .310 (!) since 2010. The on-base split is even more drastic when we look at just right-handed pitchers, and you want men on-base for Cano & Co. It’s also worth noting that Gardner’s contact rate (90.6%) is actually better than Ichiro’s (90.1%) during the PitchFX era (2007-present). His strikeouts tend to be looking, as you know. Considering that Cano is likely to hit third and Girardi loves to split up his lefties, Gardner is the better choice to hit leadoff against righties even if he’s not the future Hall of Famer on a pricey two-year contract.
Everything kinda falls into place after that. Youkilis can hit sixth, the DH seventh, Ichiro eighth, and then the catcher ninth. Flipping Youkilis with DH is possible as well, though I’m working under the assumption that Granderson will bat fifth and the DH against righties will be a left-handed hitter. Gotta split dem lefties. You get speed and contact at the top and bottom of the batting order with the thunder in the middle against right-handers, but against lefties the thunder starts right at the top with this arrangement. Lineup things would change quite a bit if the ankle prevents Jeter from being ready for Opening Day, but that’s a not a problem worth worrying about yet.
Saturday: The deal is worth $2.85MM with another $150k in plate appearance-based bonuses according to the AP. Gardner will receive $25k each for 375, 400, 425, 450, 475, and 500 plate appearances next year.
Gardner, 29, earned $2.8M this season and isn’t expected to get a raise after appearing in only 16 games due to a left elbow injury. He’ll be arbitration-eligible again in 2014 before qualifying for free agency after the season. This was a lost year for Gardner, though I suppose the fringe benefit for the club is that it will help keep his salary down these next two years.
Via Danny Knobler: The Yankees are considering moving Brett Gardner to center field next season with Curtis Granderson shifting to one of the two corner spots. Gardner is the (far) superior defender and the move would improve the team’s defense overall.
This was a hot topic last offseason but some analysis suggested that the gain would be minimal. I thought Granderson’s defense took a step back this year and feel that switching the two would be a worthwhile move at this time. I don’t know if Curtis is better for left or right — left field is bigger in Yankee Stadium but he doesn’t really have the arm for right — but his spot could depend on who they acquire for the other outfield spot in the coming weeks.
Over at MLBTR, Matt Swartz published his projected salaries for this winter’s arbitration-eligible players. His model was accurate to within 10% for players who did not sign multi-year deals last year — including just a 5% error for the Yankees — and after a summer of tweaks and refinements, he could be even closer this year.
The Yankees have seven arbitration-eligible players to deal with this offseason — Chris Dickerson and Frankie Cervelli fell just short of qualifying — though Casey McGehee is a prime non-tender candidate. The biggest expected raise belongs to Phil Hughes, who should see his salary jump from $3.2M to $5.7M. David Robertson and Boone Logan figure to get ~$1M raises while Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain are in line for negligible pay increases following their injury-shortened years. Jayson Nix still projects to get a six-figure salary and could be non-tendered as well. Without McGehee, the six-man arbitration class will cost the Yankees approximately $16.7M. Not too bad at all.
To call the play innocent would be a lie, especial after Hideki Matsui‘s broken wrist in 2006. The Yankees were trailing the Twins by two runs in the third inning of the 11th game of the season when Brett Gardner made that sliding (and awkward-looking) catch on a Josh Willingham line drive to end the third inning, a hold-your-breath moment both considering the game situation and the injury factor. Gardner remained in the game though, and in fact he went 2-for-2 with two doubles and two walks on the night. By the end of the game, the sliding catch was an afterthought.
Unfortunately, that was the last time the Yankees and their fans would see Gardner until September. That awkward-looking catch resulted in a right (non-throwing) elbow injury that nearly ended Gardner’s season and eventually required surgery. The timeline of events is lengthy and quite chaotic…
- April 17th: Sliding catch against the Twins.
- April 18th: After being a late scratch due to elbow stiffness, the Yankees placed Gardner on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise and a strain in the right elbow following that night’s game.
- April 28th: Swings a bat for the first time since being placed on the DL.
- May 2nd: Temporarily shut down with pain in the elbow after taking batting practice for a few days.
- May 7-8th: Minor league rehab games with Triple-A Empire State.
- May 10th: Shut down again after re-aggravating the injury during the rehab assignment.
- May 29th: Swings a bat for the first time since the setback.
- June 8th: Minor league rehab game with Low-A Charleston.
- June 9th: Setback #2. Gardner wakes up with pain in his elbow and schedules a visit with Dr. James Andrews as well as Dr. Tim Kremcheck per his agent’s request.
- June 14th: Yankees announce that Gardner received a cortisone shot and platelet-rich plasma therapy on the elbow and will miss 3-4 weeks.
- June 26th: After 69 days on the DL, the Yankees shift Gardner to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for the recently-claimed Danny Farquhar.
- July 6-11th: Swings a bat for the first time since treatment.
- July 15th: Simulated game in Tampa.
- July 19th: Yankees announce that Gardner will have surgery in the coming days after continued soreness in the elbow.
- September 15th: Gardner ran the bases and bunted for the first time since surgery.
- September 24th: Live batting practice for the first time since surgery.
- September 25th: Yankees activate Gardner off the DL for pinch-running and defensive replacement purposes.
- October 2nd: Doctors fully clear Gardner to play without restrictions, meaning at-bats against big league pitchers.
With Gardner on the shelf and Eduardo Nunez demoted to Triple-A, the Yankees lacked speed in a painfully obvious way. The threat of the stolen base was non-existent, and going to first-to-third on a single was a tactic employed by Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, and pretty much no one else. The Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners prior to the trade deadline to replace Gardner, a move that worked out even better than I think the team expected.
Although he returned late in the season, Gardner contributed little in September and into the playoffs. He started the final two games of the ALCS in place of Granderson and Nick Swisher, but failed to reach base in eight trips to the plate. In fact, you can argue that Brett’s biggest contribution to the Yankees in 2012 was getting caught stealing in the eighth inning of Game 161 against the Red Sox. That allowed Granderson to leadoff the ninth against the right-handed Andrew Bailey rather than bat with two outs in the eighth against the left-handed Craig Breslow. Granderson singled to open the ninth and Raul Ibanez followed with a game-tying homer, and the rest was history.
All told, Gardner went 10-for-31 (.323) with five walks (.417 OBP) and two stolen bases (four attempts) during the regular season. He appeared in just 16 games (eight starts) and was a non-factor following the initial injury on April 17th. The Yankees received what amounts to league average production from their left fielders during his absence (103 wRC+), but they lost a ton defensively and on the bases. It’s also worth noting that Granderson started the team’s first 71 games (and 89 of the their first 90 games) in center field, something that certainly wouldn’t have happened with a healthy Gardner.
The Yankees dealt with an overwhelming number of injuries this season, more than any team other than the Padres, but Gardner’s injury was the only one that hurt the club in three different ways — offensively, defensively, and on the bases. He’s been a valuable yet often underrated part of the team for the last few years, and this year the Yankees missed him in a big way prior to acquiring Ichiro.
2:26pm: Nevermind, apparently there was just a typo on the board in the press box. Ichiro is starting and batting second tonight.
2:20pm: Here’s a shocker: Brett Gardner is starting in left field over Ichiro Suzuki tonight. Ichiro is 7-for-12 lifetime against Orioles starter Jason Hammel, which leads me to believe he’s banged up. Curtis Granderson has moved up to second in the lineup while Gardner will hit ninth.
It was just a footnote in last night’s win, but Brett Gardner got an eighth inning at-bat and actually took some swings. He’s been taking batting practice over the last few weeks but has limited to pinch-running/defensive replacement duties off the bench in games. Joe Girardi confirmed last night that his Opening Day left fielder has been cleared by doctors and has zero restrictions going forward. That obviously gives him a leg up on a potential postseason roster spot.
“It’s definitely something you have to think about now … When you talk about a playoff roster, sometimes you have one extra spot for that runner. Now that he’s a full player, it makes it a little bit different,” said the skipper. Girardi added that he does not consider Gardner a full-time player going forward because he hasn’t faced enough big league pitching lately, which is really just a nice way of saying there’s no way in hell they’re taking Ichiro Suzuki out of the lineup considering how well he’s hitting. Still though, having Gardner back to 100% is a huge upgrade for the bench going forward.
Six questions and five answers today, so we’ve got a good mailbag this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box to send us questions throughout the week.
Vinny and many others ask: If the Angels are serious about not picking up Dan Haren’s option, should the Yankees be all over that?
Earlier this week there was a report indicating that the Angels plan to decline Haren’s (and Ervin Santana’s) club option for next season and instead pursue a monster extension with Zach Greinke. Haren, 32, is nearing the end of his worst full season as a big leaguer, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 29 starts and 170.2 innings. He’ll fail to make 33 starts or crack 210 innings for the first time since 2004, when he was with the Cardinals. Blame the lower back stiffness that led to his first career DL stint.
Based on Twitter these last few days, fans of every single team want their club to pursue Haren if the Angels do indeed decline his $15.5M option. Haren is from Southern California and has made it no secret that he prefers playing on the West Coast, so right away the Yankees are at a disadvantage. It’s also worth noting that his strikeout rate is in the middle of a three-year decline, and his fastball velocity has been heading in the wrong direction for years now. That second link is particularly scary. The back issue scares me as well, especially if the Halos do cut him loose. It’s the whole “what do they know that we don’t?” thing. Haren has been a great pitcher for a long time, and that alone makes him worth looking into. There are a number of red flags however, so any team interested in signing him will have to really do their homework.
Travis asks: Is it safe to assume that if we only carry three starters on the post season roster, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will have a role on the team out of the bullpen? I’m also assuming the three starters go to CC, Hirok!, and Dandy Andy.
The new playoff system and schedule really discourages the use of three-man rotations, since everyone would have to pitch on three days’ rest after Games One, Two, and Three to get away with it. CC Sabathia can do that (assuming the Yankees actually get into the postseason), but I’m not sure Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte could. I expect the Yankees to use four starters throughout the postseason, and right now the number four guy is clearly Hughes. Nova pitched himself out of the job these last two months or so.
Now does that mean Nova would automatically go to the bullpen? I don’t think that’s a given. Assuming the Yankees only carry eleven pitchers into the postseason (they could get away with ten, but I doubt it happens), four will be the starters and four other spots are accounted for: Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. That leaves three spots, one of which I assume will go to Clay Rapada. The candidates for the final two spots would be Nova, David Phelps, Cody Eppley, and I guess Derek Lowe (veteran presents!). Phelps seems like a given in this situation, then you’ve got your pick of the other three. I guess that decisions comes down to who throws the best the rest of the way, but frankly I would rather see the Yankees carry an extra position player in that situation, especially if Mark Teixeira‘s calf remains an issue.
Ben asks: Don’t you think Chris Dickerson needs to figure into the Yankees big league plans in 2013? At least as a 4th outfielder? This guy is a great fielder and base runner and had a useful bat. Much rather have him over another Andruw Jones-type. What say you?
Might as well lump these two together. If the Yankees do make the playoffs and use an 11-man pitching staff, they’ll have room for an extra bench player. That spot tends to go to a speedy pinch-runner type (think Freddy Guzman in 2009), a job for which both Gardner and Dickerson are qualified. Gardner is the better player, but he also is physically unable to hit right now. I have a hard time thinking the Yankees will carry someone on the postseason roster that can’t even swing the bat in case of an emergency. Maybe that changes and Brett is cleared to take his hacks at some point in the next six days, but that doesn’t seem likely based on everything we heard for the last four months.
As for next year, Dickerson’s situation depends largely on what happens with Nick Swisher. If they let him walk, then the outfield need will be greater and they should hold onto him. If they bring Swisher back, having a left-handed outfielder on the bench doesn’t make a ton of sense. I’m probably the biggest Chris Dickerson fan you’ll find, but he is just a platoon player at the plate. More of a high-end fourth outfielder than an everyday corner guy on a contender. As much as I would like him to see him stick with the club going forward, Dickerson isn’t a great fit for the roster right now.
Shaun asks: Hey Mike, do you know who would have home field if the Yankees and Rangers tied for the best record? Thanks.
The Yankees are currently two games back of Texas for the best record in the AL, and New York would get the nod as the top team in the circuit if they tie because they won the season series 4-3. They won’t play a tiebreaker game or anything like that, that only happens when the division title or a playoff spot in general is on the line. So yeah, the only thing the Yankees would have to do to secure home field advantage in both the ALDS and ALCS would be to finish with the same record as the Rangers, nothing more.
Steven asks: Mike, not sure if you’re aware, but Mike Trout is good at baseball. I was wondering, hypothetically speaking of course, if the Angels were to make him available, what sort of haul would he bring? Do you see his value getting any higher than it is right now? And, finally, what sort of package would the Yankees have to piece together to get these hypothetical talks started?
I don’t think any player in baseball has as much trade value as Trout. You’re talking about a just-turned-21 kid who has already shown he can play at a superstar level. He hits homers, steals bases, hits for average, gets on-base, and plays great defense at a premium position. Plus he remains under the team control for five more seasons, the next two at the league minimum. It’s impossible to top that, and I don’t think he could possibly increase his trade stock unless he agrees to like, a ten-year contract worth $25M or something ridiculous.
There’s no way for the Yankees to acquire Trout even if he was available. What do you start the package with, four years of CC Sabathia and one year of Robinson Cano while offering to pick up the bulk of the money? I wouldn’t take that for Trout. Offer me Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and a guaranteed to be healthy Michael Pineda and I still would say no if I were the Angels. If the Giants come calling and put both Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner on the table, then yeah that catches my attention. The Yankees don’t have anything to get a trade done, I just don’t see how it would be possible. I don’t think Trout can replicate this season (or even improve on it) year after year, but he’s going to be great for a long-time. At his age and with that much cost-control remaining, he’s the single most valuable asset in the game.
The Yankees have activated both Brett Gardner and David Aardsma off the 60-day DL. Although Gardner has been taking batting practice and whatnot, I assume he will be limited to pinch-running and late-game defense duties from here on out. Aardsma is unlikely to see any meaningful innings.
To clear spots on the 40-man roster, both Steve Pearce and Justin Thomas were designated for assignment. Casey McGehee can hit lefties just as well (probably better, actually) as Pearce, but he offers more versatility and big league/pennant race experience. That last part probably doesn’t matter much. I thought the Yankees would keep Thomas as the third lefty for the final week of the season, but I guess Cory Wade built up enough good will last year and earlier this season to keep his job.