Tag: Brett Gardner Page 1 of 13

Hitting a Release Valve

Today seems like a good day to stop the slide. The Yankees have been pretty putrid for the last two games, two ugly losses against the Rays. As many fans–including many of you loyal readers–would tell it, this young season has been at least mildly frustrating to many and down right infuriating to others. For some, that boiled over on Friday night with fans throwing things onto the field.

As I wrote on Twitter Saturday morning, I’m much more frustrated with people who do that than with a struggling baseball team. The latter is to be expected, even with a team as talented as the Yankees. The former is unacceptable and dangerous. Please be better, Yankee fans.

While that’s not a good way to hit a release valve, we all need to at some point. That includes me despite the patience I’ve been preaching online and in real life. So here’s my release valve, my early airing of the grievances, so to speak.

On the micro level, I’m annoyed with Aaron Boone pulling his patented ‘get one more inning out of the starter’ act, which almost never works. He did it yesterday and it helped put the game out of reach. Of course, Jordan Montgomery shouldn’t be throwing five balls in a row, but there was no need for him to be in after the sixth inning.

I’m also frustrated with the team’s handling of Clint Frazier, which Derek detailed already, even before Frazier sat out on Saturday. The entire lineup seems to be slumping, save one or two guys, but only Frazier is the one who’s not allowed to work through his slump in game action. His replacement, veteran Brett Gardner, isn’t exactly lighting things on fire. He’s got two hits and three walks in his last 18 PA. Is this really an improvement?

The offense in general has been frustrating to watch, and Randy summed up why pretty easily yesterday:

When an offense isn’t getting breaks, it’s not too hard to watch. But when an offense is in between, as Randy noted, it’s awful. They seem to miss everything hittable and hit everything missable. That’s no good for anyone. But I still trust this team will hit and hit well.

The non-Gerrit Cole rotation has been disappointing to watch as a whole. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon haven’t lived up to their upside yet, but I’m willing to give them more time. Montgomery has been fine, but it would be nice to see him find a groove over the next few starts. Maybe not playing Tampa so much will help him and everyone.

Speaking of Cole, he’s the release valve today, right? He’s the guy the Yankees can turn to now after a losing streak and feel confident that he will stop it. With a win today, with a typical Cole outing, he can help us all head into the Yankees’ off day with confidence that things will turn around.

The Deep and Talented Outfield [2021 Season Preview]

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The Unquestioned Left Fielder

I hope that it feels as good to read that as it did to write it.

After three years of bouncing between the majors, the minors, and the injured list, Clint Frazier became a fixture in the middle of the Yankees lineup last August. It may have only happened because of injuries and under-performance by others — but it happened nevertheless, and it was fantastic. Frazier hit .267/.394/.511 (149 wRC+) with 8 home runs in 160 PA and played elite defense in right field. What more could you ask for?

Sure, there are caveats aplenty given the very nature of the 2020 season. There were bizarre performances throughout the majors, good and bad and everything in between, and that wasn’t solely the result of a significantly shortened season. That said, Frazier was a top prospect for several years for a reason, and he’ll be 26 for the vast majority of this season; that means there are plenty of reasons to buy in, too.

So what’re the projections thinking?

SystemPAHRAVG/OBP/SLG (+)DefenseWAR
PECOTA50720.234/.321/.429 (104 DRC+)0.71.5
ZiPS47421.242/.325/.463 (106 wRC+)-8.21.2
Steamer52522.246/.324/.449 (103 wRC+)-9.71.0

PECOTA seems to think that Frazier’s a good defender now, that’s pretty neat. The rest? Not so much.

I find it rather interesting that all three systems are essentially ignoring 2020 entirely. His career slash line heading into 2020 was .254/.308/.463 (100 wRC+) with 16 HR in 429 PA. With the exception of an elevated walk rate, that’s really not that far off from the above chart. And I’m not buying it.

In my decidedly non-algorithmic opinion, I think a reasonable baseline for Frazier would essentially match his career to-date (which is conveniently exactly 162 games). That line? .258/.331/.475 (113 wRC+) with 24 HR in 589 PA. And I’d bet the over.

Now here’s hoping he stops running into walls.

Yankees Spring Training News & Notes: February 25, 2021

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Another quiet day for the Yankees in Tampa. So it goes. Spring training is in full swing and we’re not too far away from game action (this Sunday! and it’s on TV!).

Before we get to the story of the day and a few other notes, take a look at the ups and downs of Mike Tauchman’s day:

Take it easy there! It’s not even March yet. Then again, Tauchman is fighting for a job this spring. With Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade, and Brett Gardner assured bench roles already, there’s just one open spot remaining. Could be Tauchman, but he’ll have to beat out Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich. At least Tauchman redeemed himself later:

Similar to what Lindsey tweeted, it’s still a lengthy spring training to get through. A lot of players are eager to head north within a week or two of Opening Day, but Tauchman could still be fighting for a job at that point.

Roster Thoughts After Jay Bruce

Yesterday, the Yankees reportedly inked veteran Jay Bruce to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Let’s talk abou the roster implications.

Before getting into that, I’ll say I like the move. Jay Bruce has been a personal favorite for a long time. I remember seeing him in 2008 when the Reds visited Yankee Stadium for an interleague series having heard all the hype about him. His career has been solid and it’s hard not to like this as a minor league deal, even if his fielding days are long gone. Onto the thoughts…

Bruce vs. Gardner vs. Tauchman vs. Allen vs. Ford

An early thought on Yankee minds when the news broke of the Bruce signing was “How does this affect Brett Gardner?” Given that this is a minor league deal and Gardner is likely to get a major league deal, my first thought was that it wouldn’t affect Gardner too much.

Gardner still has an advantage over Bruce in that he can actually play the outfield. And even though Greg Allen or Mike Tauchman are still around, they’re downgrades compared to Gardner. They may have steps on him in the outfield at this point, but Gardner is no slouch and can actually hit.

Bruce also doesn’t seem like a threat to Gardner or the outfielders currently on the roster. No one in their right minds would have Jay Bruce in 2021 as a backup outfielder expected to actually play out there in non-emergency situations. The one whose spot he’s likely to take is Mike Ford’s. Bruce has had some time at first base and is much more accomplished than Ford; his story in making the ML roster last Opening Day was great, but the results aren’t there and the upside is limited. Bruce is the better option.

But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this does mean Gardner is gone. If you want to squeeze him and Bruce onto the roster–which I’m fine with–that would mean getting rid of both Tauchman and Allen, who are both option-less. The Yankees seem to love Tacuhman and valued Allen enough that they traded an actual player for him. Given those apparent realities, they might not be so willing to make room for a veteran like Gardner, who’ll push their luxury tax line to its absolute limit. It’s possible that the gap between Tauchman/Allen and Gardner isn’t that wide when it comes to a back up role. Of course, I think I’d rather Gardner step in in case of an injury than either Tauchman or Allen. But with the Yankees penchant for cost control, this may be the end of the line for Gardner.

If it is (and the Yankees make no other moves), the bench will likely be Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade, Jay Bruce, and Tauchman/Allen. Gardner instead of the last two probably makes the bench a touch better, but is that gonna happen? It’s looking increasingly less likely.

Maybe a reliever instead?

According to this by Ken Rosenthal, it appears the Yankees are looking to reunite with lefty Justin Wilson. When keeping the luxury tax stuff in mind, it’s presumable that signing a reliever would definitely seal the deal on Gardner’s exit. With the Yankees still looking to the fill the Tommy Kahnle sized hole in their bullpen, this move might make more sense and have more impact than bringing back Gardner.

40-Man Concerns

After the Darren O’Day signing, the Yankees have a full roster. Signing Wilson would require a 40-man move right away. Presumably they’d shed another pitcher and I assume it’d be Albert Abreu. He’s out of options and has done little to prove himself. His arm is strong, though, so maybe there’s a trade out there.

Even though I’ve already penciled in Bruce to a bench spot, his deal means the Yankees can wait till the end of Spring Training to make the necessary 40 man move, if they do, indeed, add him.

This move may create some difficult questions for the Yankees, but it’s worth it. Bruce fills the role of left-handed masher off the bench (even in a down year, he had a 109 wRC+ against RHP and a .321 ISO) as well a backup first baseman and emergency outfielder. This is a low-risk signing that could reap big returns.

Report: Yankees, Brett Gardner Discussing Return to Bronx

File this one under the “wrapping things up” portion of the offseason. Now that the Yankees have re-signed DJ LeMahieu, brought on Corey Kluber, and traded for Jameson Taillon, it is time to make a few final tweaks to the roster. As expected, that means rekindling the old flame with Brett Gardner, the team’s longest-tenured player. Jack Curry says that is already underway:

Gardner, who will turn 38 this year, hit .223/.354/.392 (110 wRC+), with a much stronger second half of the season, in 2020. While I quibble with Curry’s claim that Gardner can play “all 3 OF spots”, he is a versatile player who, in my view, belongs on the team.

Like Curry, I think this will work out sooner rather than later. (Especially because it’s Curry, perhaps the best well-sourced Yankee reporter, is the one telling us this.) All that’s left is to see the terms of the deal.

Remember, Brett earned $10 million in 2020 and had a $2.5 million buyout for 2021 after the Yanks declined his 2021 option. I expect, if a reunion does happen, that it’ll be for a much smaller salary than $10 million. Maybe a $5 million base salary so he earns $7.5 million total? No idea, but the Yanks aren’t looking to break the bank. We do know that.

No matter, though. Brett’s earned $85 million in his career, so I’m willing to bet he’ll take a hometown discount to try and win one for the road.

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