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February 24, 2014

Transaction Analysis

The Gardner Constant

by R.J. Anderson

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NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Agreed to a four-year extension with OF-L Brett Gardner worth $52 million with a club option worth an additional $12.5 million. [2/23]

An unusual yet sensible deal for both sides.

Coco Crisp's recent two-year extension with the Athletics left Gardner as the best outfielder in the upcoming free-agent class by default. With another solid season, like his 2013, a team in need of a center-fielder-slash-leadoff-hitter might have handed him a contract comparable to Curtis Granderson's four-year pact worth $60 million. Yet Gardner wanted no such thing, opting instead to extinguish the trade rumors that engulfed his winter.

However rare it is for a player to sign a modest long-term deal heading into his walk year, it's rarer to see the Yankees sign a player to an extension. The most recent occasion came in 2011, when Brian Cashman and CC Sabathia shook hands on a new five-year deal—though Sabathia was on the verge of exercising an opt-out to hit free agency. Before then, you have to go back to Robinson Cano's agreement in 2008. Before him? Hideki Matsui. The Yankees just don't do extensions. And why should they? The incentive to act like the Indians, A's, or Rays is minimized by their massive financial resources. Besides there's a risk aversion aspect to the whole thing that often goes ignored—imagine if the Yankees had signed Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain to comfy deals as they entered arbitration. Sometimes the best extensions are the ones not signed.

Although Gardner's deal is unlikely to garner best-in-the-business recognition anytime soon, it should go well anyway. The only negative to point to—beyond the lack of a standout offensive aspect—is his past fragility. Even then, his injury-depleted 2012 looks like the abnormality more than his 145-game 2013. Otherwise, the Yankees have secured at least the next five seasons from a 30-year-old with a broad skill set. Gardner gets on base, plays defense, steals bases, and more than holds his own against same-handed pitching.

Last season Gardner added a new dimension to his game by posting a career-best ISO thanks to an adjusted approach. Ben Lindbergh wrote about the outfielder's uptick in aggression in April, and the changes held true throughout the season. Gardner offered at more than 40 percent of the pitches he saw for the first time in his career, and became particularly aggressive in favorable counts. Unsurprisingly, he saw a career-high 35 percent of his hits go for extra bases; previously, his career rate was 24 percent. Yes, Gardner's new approach led to more strikeouts and fewer walks, but he remained an above-average hitter regardless.

The Yankees hope that's the case for the next five seasons.


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  New York Yankees,  Transactions

6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

FrankL

So now the Yankees native grown version of Jacoby Ellsbury will cost them roughly 2/3 the the Ells' price on an annual basis. Not quite the bargain the Yanks once held.

Feb 24, 2014 06:21 AM
rating: 0
 
Shaun P.
(676)

"imagine if the Yankees had signed Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain to comfy deals as they entered arbitration"

I do wonder if Hughes and Chamberlain had been signed to comfy deals upon entering arbitration, whether that would have resulted in the Yankees jerking both of them around much less. What we've seen over the years with the Yankees is that they play the guys getting paid, and/or the veterans, but younger players . . . not so much. Many folks forget that Chamberlain was the Yanks' 4th starter the last time they won the World Series, and that whenever Hughes had troubles, the stories about him going back to the bullpen would return, rarely categorically refuted by the team. Ah well, a few what ifs.

Feb 24, 2014 07:20 AM
rating: 2
 
Ogremace

Not that they've had that many young players to play. Aside from the Joba mishandling they gave Hughes as many opportunities as were available, same with Gardner. Who else has come out of the system worth giving time to?

Feb 25, 2014 17:12 PM
rating: 1
 
godfather

unusual, almost sentimental, for nyy to do this with gardner, but if anyone deserves overpayment among their wholly bloated salaries, it's the kid who represents "hustle"...I still think phil would have been hughesable

Feb 24, 2014 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

Even as a Yankee fan this is a stupid deal. Especially in light of the Ellsbury signing.

They could have signed Granderson instead of Gardner if they had just spent slightly less money on Ellsbury.

They better hope they haven't locked themselves into 5 years of 25 HRs between them.

Feb 24, 2014 17:26 PM
rating: 0
 
Ogremace

Even if they have, that won't be a failure. They're not relying on either for power, and while locking into so little power might be... uneven, the two can provide tons of value aside from that. Aside from that, Gardner's deal does not have a no-trade clause, and the contract is very tradable as long as he stays healthy.

This deal may not be one for the ages, but it's not, as a Yankee fan, to see them do it. These kinds of deals could help the Yankees avoid their monetary inflexibility and were something they previously claimed they "didn't do".

Feb 25, 2014 17:16 PM
rating: 0
 
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