The Detroit Tigers and Robbie Grossman finalized a two year, $10 million dollar contract on Tuesday. This is relevant to Yankee fans only in the sense that it touches on something I mentioned in passing a few weeks ago:
Some team is going to get a steal when they sign Brett Gardner to a one year deal.
Again, I understand if that team isn’t the Yankees. Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier (presumably) are going to get full time at bats and Mike Tauchman who the Yanks have for a dime, is a good 4th outfielder – he’s actually a very similar player to Gardner – despite a poor 2020.
But a team that needs a 4th OF who can play CF and LF at a plus level, run the bases at a plus level, is a better than league average hitter (yes he is) and is a very dangerous hitter against righties would be wise to grab Gardner.
Let’s compare Gardner to other current free-agent outfielders. For today’s purposes, I selected left-handed batters and Grossman, who is a switch hitter. It must be noted, Gardner is the only one who can play CF.
Over the 2019-20 seasons:
Another factor is that Gardner is a significantly better hitter against right handed pitching than left handed pitching – better than both Schwarber and Pederson actually. He posted a 134 OPS+ in 2019 against righties in 2019 and followed that up with a 118 OPS+ vs righties in 2020 (reminder: league average is 100, so 134 is 34% better than league average, 118 is 18% better than league average). So if the M.O. is Gardner is going to be a 4th outfielder, his bat becomes valuable as he’ll rarely see lefty pitching. Heck, that OPS+ is a pretty good pinch hitting option off the bench as well.
As a fan of both the Yankees and Gardner, I wouldn’t enjoy watching him leave – he’s one of the more underrated Yankees in their history. But I’d be glad for him if there’s a smart team out there who’ll utilize his skills.
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