When the Yankees signed Brett Gardner to a four-year $52 Million extension in February, I was pleasantly surprised Gardner decided to avoid free agency and gave his current employers a discount. I was also surprised the Yankees committed to Gardner for the next five years (2014 included) when they had just signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 Million deal.
When the Yankees signed Ellsbury, I thought to myself ‘Why did the Yankees sign Ellsbury for when they have Brett Gardner?’
Five months later and 2/3 of the season complete, I still ask myself that same question. Not to knock on Jacoby Ellsbury because he is a very good player, but Brett Gardner has been the Yankees best player all season long, and in 2014, he makes the least out of all the veterans.
Gardner hit his 10th home run of the season last night against the Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish, and that 10th home run has Gardner in a three-way tie for second place in the home run category with Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, two players who I felt were slightly overpaid.
Gardner took the discount from Yankees because he loves playing in New York and he can’t imagine himself playing for another team; he hopes to finish his baseball career with the Yankees. But, I can’t help but wonder if Gardner sold himself a little short by not going into the free agent market and testing the waters. With the numbers Gardner is putting up this year, it’s pretty easy to picture him getting an offer for $100 Million from another team. Jacoby Ellsbury did and aside from one breakout season, he’s the same player as Gardner.
Gardner’s game of baseball improves every year; just a mere four years ago he was known as just a slap hitter and a base stealer. This year he’s the lead-off man, the catalyst, the power guy, the base stealer and the player you want at the plate when there’s a runner in scoring position. Gardner might have sold himself short by not going into the free agent market, but he proved that there’s more to baseball than money, and he’s here because he has a love for the game. Baseball needs more players like him–and the Yankees are extremely lucky to have him.