Free Brett Gardner!

Reed Johnson:

Season Team Batting Fielding Replacement Positional RAR WAR Dollars Salary
2003 Blue Jays 3.3 -3.4 15.2 -5.0 10.1 1.0 $2.8
2004 Blue Jays -13.4 4.5 19.4 -4.8 5.6 0.5 $1.7 $0.3
2005 Blue Jays -2.7 6.1 14.6 -6.1 12.0 1.2 $4.1 $0.3
2006 Blue Jays 19.8 15.3 17.2 -5.4 47.1 4.5 $16.8 $1.4
2007 Blue Jays -12.1 -0.3 10.2 -3.7 -5.8 -0.6 ($2.3) $3.1
2008 Cubs 1.2 -0.3 12.5 -0.3 13.1 1.3 $5.9 $1.3
2009 Cubs -1.1 -1.2 6.2 -0.2 3.8 0.4 $1.7 $3.0

Jonny Gomes:

Season Team Batting Fielding Replacement Positional RAR WAR Dollars Salary
2003 Devil Rays -2.0 0.5 -0.9 -2.3 -0.2 ($0.6)
2004 Devil Rays -2.8 0.5 -0.5 -2.9 -0.3 ($0.9)
2005 Devil Rays 20.9 -2.3 13.6 -7.8 24.4 2.5 $8.3
2006 Devil Rays -3.1 -2.2 15.4 -12.1 -2.0 -0.2 ($0.7) $0.4
2007 Devil Rays 3.2 -8.6 13.1 -7.8 -0.2 0.0 ($0.1) $0.4
2008 Rays -3.7 -8.0 5.9 -6.2 -12.0 -1.2 ($5.4) $1.3
2009 Reds 10.2 -9.1 10.5 -5.2 6.3 0.6 $2.8

Xavier Nady:

Season Team Batting Fielding Replacement Positional RAR WAR Dollars Salary
2003 Padres -1.0 5.1 13.5 -5.1 12.5 1.2 $3.4 $0.8
2004 Padres -0.5 -0.4 2.8 -1.4 0.5 0.0 $0.1
2005 Padres 4.7 -3.4 11.9 -5.1 8.2 0.8 $2.8 $0.5
2006 Mets/Pirates 3.2 -8.9 17.1 -7.1 4.3 0.4 $1.5 $0.4
2006 Mets 3.6 -5.0 9.7 -3.5 4.9 0.5 $1.7 $0.4
2006 Pirates -0.4 -4.0 7.3 -3.5 -0.5 0.0 ($0.2) $0.4
2007 Pirates 6.5 -9.3 15.7 -5.3 7.5 0.7 $3.0 $2.2
2008 Pirates/Yankees 23.3 3.8 20.2 -7.4 39.9 4.0 $17.9 $3.4
2008 Pirates 20.6 3.5 12.0 -4.2 31.9 3.2 $14.3 $3.4
2008 Yankees 2.7 0.3 8.2 -3.2 8.0 0.8 $3.6 $3.4
2009 Yankees -0.2 -1.4 1.0 -0.4 -0.9 -0.1 ($0.4) $6.6

So, let’s get this straight. Between 21 seasons these three players combine for 3 seasons above 1.5 wins. Based purely on number of at bats (because those have value as well), these three players combine for 23.7 wins. However, when you take their actual performance into account, this win total slims to 16.7. Between the three players, they’ve been worth negative seven wins through their actual performance. The only player on the right side of 30 is Jonny Gomes (and looking at the above table gives me no reason to even consider him for the Yankees).

Why on earth are these players being considered to replace the twenty-six year old Brett Gardner? Nady has the benefit of having had his good season come in the recent past–but he’s also coming off of a second Tommy John surgery, and has been rather normal since Cashman acquired him from the Pirates in 2008.

Brett Gardner:

Season Team Batting Fielding Replacement Positional RAR WAR Dollars Salary
2008 Yankees -5.4 12.7 4.7 -0.5 11.5 1.1 $5.2
2009 Yankees 2.4 7.2 9.5 1.5 20.6 2.1 $9.3 $0.4

So he’s only got two years of major league experience, and each of those have been partial seasons–in total time played, this is less than one season’s playing time. Project out Gardner’s playing time to one full season and he looks like a 4-4.5 win player–which tops all but one of his possible replacement’s 21 seasons (Reed Johnson’s 2006).

Now, before anyone gets up in arms, I’m certainly not penciling Gardner in for a 4-win season. That would have placed him between Posada and Cano as the 5th most valuable position player on the 2009 Yankees, and while it’s not out of the question given his defensive prowess, it’s an optimistic target. I understand that we’re looking at a small sample size thus far–but people projecting Gardner to be worse than any of the trio of players being considered for his roster spot, I have to ask, “Why?”

For those suggesting that Nady would have been good if not for his injury in 2009, if he’d had the same playing time he’d had the previous year, he’d have projected out to a 2.0 win season. Good, but not as good as Gardner, who was worth 2.1 wins in under half a full season. This really, really isn’t to say Gardner is a sure thing to outperform Nady–or any of these players! But it is to say he’s a much better bet to outperform this group, than are any of the others.

There is one player I’d consider looking at to take Gardner’s place, at the right price. However, he’s currently living on Planet Boras.

Johnny Damon:

Season Team Batting Fielding Replacement Positional RAR WAR Dollars Salary
2002 Red Sox 14.6 4.4 23.4 2.3 44.7 4.5 $11.6 $7.3
2003 Red Sox 2.1 -2.5 23.0 2.2 24.8 2.4 $6.8 $7.5
2004 Red Sox 23.5 -7.6 23.4 2.2 41.5 4.0 $12.5 $8.0
2005 Red Sox 13.9 -17.4 22.9 2.2 21.6 2.2 $7.4 $8.3
2006 Yankees 17.9 -11.6 22.4 0.2 28.9 2.8 $10.3 $13.0
2007 Yankees 5.0 4.8 20.2 -6.7 23.3 2.3 $9.3 $13.0
2008 Yankees 23.1 -1.1 20.8 -6.2 36.6 3.6 $16.4 $13.0
2009 Yankees 25.3 -9.2 20.9 -6.9 30.1 3.0 $13.6 $13.0

Now, Given the demise of Damon’s defense (and the required move to LF from CF), his value has been hurt. He’s really a good bet for between 3 and 4 wins in 2010 (if he’s batting in Yankee Stadium half of the time), though there it wouldn’t be tremendously surprising if he dipped a bit below 3 or slightly above 4. If he ends up with the Mets (who need an outfielder), you can expect his value to plummet as he steps into a larger ballpark (which will hurt him both offensively and defensively). Based on Gardner’s numbers in limited time, we can project him around 3 wins, but there’s a LOT more volatility inherent given the sample size. Damon’s been producing for years. (Those other three guys? They’ve been not producing for years).

The stathead part of me says we should take Gardner over Damon. He’s signed for the league minimum and under team control for 4 years. If he works out, he’s a tremendous asset for the team (even if that comes by being traded to make room for a Carl Crawford type player next offseason). Damon will cost at the bare minimum $5 million a year, probably for two years. But the skeptic in me (yep, I repress him as much as possible, but he’s there) remembers how good Damon has been for us, and likes the idea of getting him back on a cheap contract.

When I compare Gardner to Reed Johnson, Jonny Gomes and Xavier Nady, though? There’s no nagging question, no tough decisions to make.

My gut tells me some team will offer Damon $8 million for two years or so, and he’ll take it. That team probably won’t be the Yankees. And if he’s off the table, the Yankees should stand pat. Let the youngster (yes, Gardner is a youngster) play. He’s earned it. Let the players who have proven their uselessness move on to basement dwelling more suitable teams.

Will is a lifelong New Yorker and Yankees fan who splits his time between finance, music, and baseball. He was one of the early contributors to IIATMS, though life took him away for some time. He is very excited to be back.