Outfielder Brett Gardner has had one tough road to his baseball career, and if the San Francisco Giants are smart, the City by the Bay will be his next destination. After consecutive disappointing seasons, the New York Yankees have reported to be listening to trade offers for the 32-year-old All Star.
In his 151 games played this year, Gardner posted his lowest WAR (3.3) since his official rookie season in 2009, fewest stolen bases of his career (20), and had his lowest fielding percentage of his career (.978). Of course, all of these statistics exclude his 2012 season when he underwent right elbow surgery to remove a bone spur, which limited him to just 16 games. After turning into a fan favorite through his first six seasons, Gardner received some of his first “boo-birds” from the Bronx faithful, particularly in the Yankees defeat in the American League Wild Card game when he went 0-4 with three strikeouts.
Call to the Pen
At the same time, Gardner earned himself an All Star spot this season after slashing .302/377/.484/.861 with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases through his first 82 games (and a little injury help from Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon). Although he struggled through a second half slump, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford went through similar struggles with the bat, yet we don’t hear any Crawford trade rumors floating around.
This is because it is the New York Yankees, and if the New York Yankees do not win every single game, the New York Yankees act as if the Zombie Apocalypse has begun. This is the treatment and pressure of playing in the pinstripes.
In response to whether or not the Yankees will look to let go of Gardner, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com said, “It’s possible, as it may be one of the only ways that they can get creative and add flexibility around the roster.”
“Gardner tried walking on at the College of Charleston and was cut twice by head coach John Pawlowski. “
Along with his “down” season, Gardner is playing among a crowded outfield with guys like Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Chris Young all lobbying for starting spots. Gardner is known for his speed and ability to get on base, ideal for a team in search for an outfielder who can be their lead-off hitter. The Yankees already have their lead-off outfielder for the next several years with Ellsbury signed through 2020, and manager Joe Girardi wants to have both Beltran and Alex Rodriguez in the lineup. By forcing Beltran to move to the outfield with Rodriguez as the designated hitter, there is a logjam in the outfield.
Can you think of any teams in need for a speedy center fielder who has the ability to hit in the lead-off position in the lineup? Well, perhaps plenty of teams, but the San Francisco Giants are indeed one of them with Angel Pagan on the tail end of his career, and they sure could get used to plays like this one that he made in that same AL Wild Card game just 20 days ago:
Would Gardner’s high profile, New York-style of play fit in with the classic and laid-back San Francisco clubhouse? Absolutely. Gardner is not your ordinary Yankee, and has a lot of character to him, as he has not had an easy ride to the big leagues. Instead of enjoying a normal professional baseball player’s story, Gardner tried walking on at the College of Charleston and was cut twice by head coach John Pawlowski. Instead of quitting, Gardner was determined to make his name known and he did so by becoming a third round draft pick in the 2005 MLB Draft.
In an article by Gene Sapakoff of The Post and Courier, Brett’s father was asked about the struggles of Brett finding a fit in college:
“People say, ‘I can’t believe Brett didn’t get an offer out of high school,'” Jerry Gardner said. “And I’ve talked to (Citadel head coach) Fred Jordan and he mentions Brett as being a diamond in the rough that he can’t believe was overlooked. But even me as a parent, I can understand why people didn’t give him much of an offer. Heck, he was 5-8, 135 coming into college. He had some speed but he just wasn’t ready to play Division I baseball. It’s just a heck of a story how it worked out.”
Oct 6, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner (11) reacts after grounding out against the Houston Astros during the eighth inning in the American League Wild Card playoff baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
With the Yankees just desperate enough and the Giants in search of a Gardner-type player, it would be wise for GM Bobby Evans to make a deal and even take on the rest of his 4 year/$52 million contract through 2018 along with him.
In a clubhouse that has regularly been regarded as “misfits” and “outcasts,” the pesky Gardner might just fit right in.