What are the alternatives to Brett Gardner?

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Last night was another rough night for Brett Gardner. He went 0-4, including a failed sac bunt, and looked pretty bad doing so. On that failed sac bunt…I think it’s safe to say that it’s time to halt the Brett Gardner as bunter experiment. The Yankees have been trying to get him to do it well since last year and it’s just not working. Gardner clearly doesn’t possess the skill to bunt and the Yankees need to stop forcing it. Gardner has shown that, if nothing else, he’s able to work the occasional walk and that’s more valuable than dropping down a crappy bunt every now and again. I say let him take his pitches and work his way on that way. But….

Gardner just isn’t hitting right now. He’s also not doing the whole base stealing thing, either. And, as mentioned before, the bunting isn’t there. So, what can the Yankees do if this continues? They’ve already done one thing, and that’s to drop Gardner back down to a low spot in the lineup. That makes complete sense and the Yankees should get props for recognizing it early. So, here’s props.

The next route would be to eliminate the platoon and just make Andruw Jones the full time left fielder. This isn’t completely undesirable, considering the fact that Jones has been a full time player for most of his career. However, he’s been relegated to platoon duty of late after 2007 (.304) and 2008 (.207!) saw Jones post miserable wOBAs against right handed pitching. But, in every year other than that (since 2002), he has a wOBA of at least .337 against right handed pitchers. I think I’d feel comfortable if the Yankees wanted to make Jones the full time left fielder, so long as they think his body could hold up.

The extreme option–if this slump becomes even more prolonged–would be to option Gardner back down to the minors. I don’t see this happening unless Gardner really bombs and can’t correct himself after about 100 PAs. At that point, we could hear the Scranton Express coming for Brett with Chris Dickerson or Justin Maxwell on board to take Gardner’s place in the Bronx. In that situation, I’d imagine they’d go with Dickerson since he’s left handed, but I don’t think the difference would be huge. If that happens, I think Jones would already be the starter.

There’s also the trade market, but it’s not developed at all this early in the season and speculating about any sort of trade would be irresponsible and unfounded, so I won’t do that here. By all means, though, feel free to discuss any trade possibilities in the comments.

I’m inclined to give Gardner the benefit of the doubt here, since I’m always confident in a guy who can work walks and play good defense. However, if he can’t work those walks and is struggling to make even decent contact, then it’s a problem.

About Matt Imbrogno

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

36 thoughts on “What are the alternatives to Brett Gardner?

  1. I’m willing to stick with him for 100 at-bats. After that, if he’s shown no sign of improvement, it’s time to bench him and give someone else a chance. His defense is still great, so he can still be a defensive replacement and pinch runner, so I think he should stick around regardless.

  2. I think it’s his hands. Even great hitters take a while to recover from hand injuries, and it’s possible he keeps aggravating the situation with every head-first slide.
    In any case, he has to be able to hit some of the BP fastballs he’s seen lately or he becomes useless. I think he will, but I also believe he’d do it a lot sooner if he learned to slide feet first.

  3. I think Gardner was overrated going into this season and has been for awhile. He had one good half of a season last year where his BABIP was very high. He has no power at all and really relies on his ability to walk at a solid rate, which pitchers learned after a half season that there is no reason to throw him anything besides strikes. The second half of last season he was pretty bad and it has simply carried over. I realize he will have some type of bounce back, but he doesn’t seem to me someone who is going to consistently hit in the .280 range. I actually wanted Carl Crawford this offseason (who is also struggling) because I think Gardner is just a solid 4th outfielder. Other than his fielding he really offers nothing which isn’t good for a corner outfielder.

  4. Pete, don’t forget that his first half last season was more than acceptable: 1H BA – .309, OBP – .396 and OPS – .811); his 2H BA -.233, OBP – .366 and OPS – .698. Reason for the drop-off?, perhaps fatigue from playing every day for the first time in the Bigs OR more likely the wrist injury he suffered in July.

    I cannot understand why he is unable to improve his bunting deficiencies; I thought for sure they would have worked extensively to address that in ST, I do feel he should be given a bit longer leash to get untracked before he is benched, sent down or moved. He IS an excellent defender, and in that stacked lineup should be “carried” provided he hit .250 at the bottom of the order.

  5. Maria, bottom line: Melky was a distraction to his “running buddy” Robbie Cano. (Remember when he was sent down and Cano’s play picked-up dramatically?) Less goofing around and partying at night will do that.

    Melky will do just fine as a career fourth OFer elsewhere. Leave Cano to his devices, such as .300/30+/100+ seasons and multiple GGs and AS selections. Yanks come out ahead big-time! ;)

  6. I agree with Peter about Gardner being over-rated. He had a very good first half last season and everyone thought he was best thing since sliced bread. For me, he serves better as a role player. The player I’d like the Yankees to obtain via trade is Denard Span. Who knows, Perhaps, if the Twins have a down year, they look to move him although I doubt it.

  7. My first response is that this is your article and certainly your opinions. And you’re definitely entitled to those. That said, I completely disagree with your bunting theory. Having played briefly as a minor league catcher (injury ended my dream) and having spent the last 35 yrs coaching baseball at most levels including American Legion and Senior AAU and 1 stint at a private high school, my opinion is that Gardner just flat doesn’t WANT to bunt. Any ML baseball player with the skills to even reach the ML is more that capable of LEARNING to bunt. I’ve seen Gardner work himself in to situations at bat to where the bunt has to be wiped off, In MHO it was intentional. For the life of me, I will never understand why he get’s himself into those 0 and 2, 1 and 2 counts almost every time at bat, then looks at a called third strike more than anyone else in ML baseball. I have no clue what happens to him from an organiza6ional standpoint. I’m sorry the young man was injured last season. As far as anyone knows, he’s healthy now. I just personally believe it’s time for the Talking Heads in the organization to make a move.

  8. He is an out dresed as ballplayer, it’s time to send him to the unemployed office

  9. I. Don’t think its an issue yet. I think he should be looked over, but not scrutanized. There are many players across the league to begin slow and then go on to do big things (and not just the big names.) I too belive the hand injury may be playing a role in this situation. And because of his reputation for drawing walks he’s a guy in the lineup who will be seeing a lot of good pitches. I say give him a couple days off to work with the trainers, and then let him figure his swing out. Batting ninth is an ideal spot for him because its like having two lead off hitters from the 3 or 4th inning on. If anything I belive he is UNDER rated rather over rated. He has the staples to be a good defensive contact hitter for years to come.

  10. Another thing is, lets not forget about Derek Jeter a couple years back starting 2 for 32 or something disasterous like that and he ended up with a .291 avg. (those are probably off a little) But I think were not giving Gardner enough credit for the simple fact that he’s not a big name yet. Sure the “big names” have proven themselves in the past. But it’s no different than what Gardner is going through now. “well I think he’s overrated” Why? because he doesnt hit 40 hrs you roided out long ball junkie. He’s only played full season. He plays small ball something the Yankees DONT HAVE. Jorge Posada only has 8 hits on the season, but because 5 are hr’s no one comments on it. I think what we should really be doing is picking on Rodriguez and Texiera, there is no reason for Cano to be batting 5th in the lineup. Robinson is the best all around player on that team. Fielding, Hitting for contact, and hitting for power. I believe Robinson Cano should be hitting third, Rodriguez should stay clean up and Texiera should be hitting 5th. yes, he hits for power, but he doesnt hit very often. It may seem like I’m just going off on a tangent but I just feel we tend to pick on the younger guys too much especially when he’s a yankee. Just my two pennies.

  11. So, who in the Majors does know the art of bunting? A select few. The skill just isn’t taught any more (from little league up)
    especially in the American league. Players are expected to have power because that’s what fans like. I think speed is an exciting part of the game which involves not only getting to a flyball on defense; but bunting and stealing (which is also not used enough).

  12. Yes Gardner’s defense is fine but is anyone else tired of seeing him work counts to 3-2 only to hope for an infield hit or a walk ? Isn’t that what we already have in Jeter? Although Jeter is at least showing signs of lifting the ball to right field. Gardner is at best a 4th outfielder on any team.

  13. He’s not talented enough to be a consistent producer offensively. Aside from that he’s fine. The Yankees have a 210 million dollar payroll with a single A leadoff hitter who cannot keep up with anything over 89 mph, swings the bat like Johnny Damon throws a baseball, can’t bunt, can’t steal a base without seriously compromising the current at bat because he waits forever. He’s a good defensive replacement and late inning pich runner and that’s it. He’s just not very good….it’s that simple.

  14. What seems to have been forgotten here is that Gardner did bunt in the minors – it was a big part of his game. He said on one of the YES shows that somehow his skill in bunting was “lost” when he was expected to hit to play in the majors and he focused on hitting. It seems very strange that you can forget something basic like how to bunt if you did a lot of bunting and were effective on this before. I mean Gardner looks absolutely awkward bunting. Seems like he doesn’t want to bunt. Hopefully he gets whatever he needs to straighten himself out – it is nice to get a speedster on the bases – just another part of the arsenal of offensive weapons to win games.

  15. If he’s going to hit leadoff he’s got to hit. He’s NOT…I believe he’s 3 for 6 in SB’s…not acceptable. He has huge holes in his game and should be on a very short leash. When the Red Sox get going, and they will, we will not be able to carry Gardner’s deficiencies.

  16. No one is talking about him hitting lead off, Why does everyone forget he hit .270 last year? Its nothing more than a slow start. Wow you guys are brutal haha
    He brings speed to a power line up, that is a good thing. We are three players away from being a very scary team to face (Not that were not already.) Two more guys for speed late in the game, and a solid starting pitcher.

  17. Gardner is not a ML caliber hitter. He should not be starting. He’s a late game pinch runner/defensive replacement. Das it…

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  19. Anyone who has watched Gardner through the last two years had to have noted the following;

    1) He was a slap stick hitter for the most part, limiting his at bats to either walking, infield pop ups, lazy outfield pop ups, or striking out.

    2) He took countless good pitches, usually limiting his options to swinging at possible 3rd strikes. It took other teams a while to realize this and now pound the strike zone, yet he continues to take the pitches. He listened to the press about his ability to take pitches and be a good two strike hitter. I’d like to smoke whatever they were to arrive at that conclusion.

    3) Whenever he did reach base, he was indecisive as to when to steal, which usually affected the batter behind himj who took pitches to allow him to stealand found themselves in a hole. The manager should have then taken the lead and gave him the steal sign, in lieu of him anchoring himself to first base most of the time. Not only has his batting average settled into his norm, but his base stealing became almost non-existant.

    Combine his stats for the last 2 1/2 years and be surprised that many minor league players in the same position have stats that far exceed his. His defensive skills can be matched by many major leaguers. What good is his speed if he can’t get on, and when he does, he hesitates to steal. He has far from dominated at anything during his time in the majors. Girardi fell in love with his speed and let that overshadow comon sense. His defensive capabilities are not that difficult to match by many other outfielders in the minors, given the chance, if that is the criteria for making the majors.

  20. Gardner has won the fielders bible award last year for his defensive effort in left field, which means he was one of the most energetic run preventers in 2010. this is the closest thing of a defensive player producing runs. this means, he helped his team win more games than some highly celebrated players. add in the fact that he had an enormous OBP which is the most important offensive stat (even in his 2nd half season slump – he had a respectble .360 OBP.) to me such player is the essence of a very good player. someone who you should hold on the longest rope possible, no matter how bad he struggles in the beginning of the season. remember that he’s profound at starting seasons slowly. The 2009 season he also started very slow, lost his everyday job and then rebounded to have a decent year.