Even though he was drafted in the third round of the playoffs, Brett Gardner was never a highly touted prospect. The College of Charleston product worked his way through the system nonetheless and was in the major leagues to stay by the 2009 season. He was a regular outfielder the following year and good enough that Brian Cashman cited him as justification to not pursue All-Star Carl Crawford last offseason.
EXPECTATIONS: The reason why the Yankees didn’t go after Crawford is because Gardner had far exceeded expectations the year before. He had to repeat that though otherwise fans would have turned on him and Cashman too.
SLOW START: Gardner didn’t make things easy on himself as he hit just .145 with a .197 OBP and .503 OPS over the first 20 games. His defense was strong throughout, but it did carry over to his base running as he stole 13 bases, but was caught nine times.
STRONG SUMMER: For a 104 game stretch from the end of April to the middle of August, Gardner had a .389 OBP with an .828 OPS. He was also 33-for-41 on the base paths all while providing some of the best defense in baseball.
COLD FINISH: He was really on his way to having a very impressive season, but over the final 40 games he really slowed down. He had a .281 OBP and a .527 OPS. Unlike in the beginning of the season though, he was an impressive 13-for-15 on the bases.
PLAYOFFS: Perhaps it just shows that small samples are just silly, but after playing so terribly in September he was one of the best in October. Against the Tigers he had a .444 OBP and a .915 OPS.
DEFENSIVELY SUPERIOR: Gardner provides most of his value through his amazing defense. His 25.2 UZR was the highest in all of baseball. He was denied a Gold Glove, but that just shows how poor the award is as Gardner won a Fielding Bible Award and has cultivated a reputation as one of, if not the best, defensive players in the game.
VERDICT: Overall it was a very good season for Gardner despite the cold spells. As he gets older he may become more consistent and develop into an even better player. He would have made Cashman look smart even if Crawford had put together a good year.
GOING FORWARD: Gardy isn’t a free agent until after the 2014 season. He will be in their starting lineup the entire time if he isn’t traded. His unique abilities and cheap salary make him attractive as a big piece in a trade. Cashman has already confirmed that teams have called about him this offseason. However, with Nick Swisher set to become a free agent after next season it makes long term sense for the Yankees to hold on to him.