For a baseball fan, this MLB offseason has been far from dull. Players have been picked up faster than you can say “2013 World Series”, teams are beginning to look good (on paper) and some of the biggest trades have stunned the baseball nation. However, there are still players that are on the market looking for a team to play for in 2013. A name that has been popping up a lot? No, not Nick Swisher. Michael Bourn. Since Josh Hamilton signed with the LA Angels last week, Michael Bourn has quickly become the top free agent, which means many teams are pining for him according to MLB Trade Rumors. I mean, why wouldn’t a team want Michael Bourn? He is a great defensive outfielder; he has a good bat, an outstanding glove, fast blazing speed. Wait a minute, it sounds like I am describing a player the Yankees already have and he is under team control until 2015: the young, talented and underrated Brett Gardner.
The Yankees may have “quiet” interest in Bourn but Gardner practically is almost similar to the free agent outfielder–even the numbers speak for themselves. Let us compare the free agent to the Yankees LF (who could be the CF on Opening Day since the Yankees reportedly plan to switch him and Curtis Granderson) and see who is the better option for the Yankees.
Let us start with Gardner since he is already on the team. Now, Gardner had a disappointing 2012 season and it was not because he played horrible (because he did not). He was injured almost the whole season after landing awkwardly on his elbow during the Yankees/Twins game on April 18, 2012. Overall, his career numbers are decent: .266 BA/.355 OBP/.368 SLG. In 5 years, Gardner also swiped 137 bases, which is very impressive considering he wasn’t a full time player until the 2010 season. Now, let us look at my favorite defensive stat: WAR (Wins above Replacement). According to Baseball-Reference, throughout Gardner’s 5 years in service to baseball, his dWAR is 7.4. Not bad for a speedy left fielder with a great glove (who has yet to win a Gold Glove award, which I’m still mad about). Gardner’s numbers are what the Yankees are looking for (even though he doesn’t hit home runs), but let’s go to Michael Bourn and see what his numbers are.
Now before we continue, let us keep in mind that Michael Bourn played two more years than Gardner did and played double the games than Gardener did. All right, with that being said, here are Bourn’s career numbers: .272 BA/.339 OBP/.365 SLG. According to Baseball-Reference, throughout his 7 years in the Major Leagues, Bourn swiped 276 bases, which is also impressive. Looking at Bourn’s defensive stats now, throughout his 7 years in service to baseball, his dWAR is 8.6. Yep, Bourn’s speed helps him become one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.
So Who’s the Better Option
Looking at both Gardner and Bourn’s numbers, the offense is almost a carbon copy to one another. If not for the 2012 season, Gardner could have had approximately 20 steals shy to 200 SB and could have improved his dWAR significantly. However, although Bourn has better numbers in different departments, I would have to go with Gardner as the better option for the Yankees. I know you are asking, ‘Why Gardner? His numbers are a bit lower than Bourn’s. What’s the reason?’ The answer is simple: Gardner is cheap. Bourn is not. Gardner fits into the Yankees 2014 budget plans in which his contract could be about $3+ Million. Bourn made $6.8 Million last season and he probably won’t take a pay cut just to play for the Yankees. So the bottom line is, the Yankees have all they need in Brett Gardner without having to go out there and spending extra money on Michael Bourn. In Yankee Land these days, the less money you make, the better option you are (especially if you are trying to avoid a luxury tax in 2014).