One of the toughest decisions an organization has to make is when to move on from a homegrown veteran. That is the dilemma that the Yankees face for Brett Gardner, who has been in the organization since 2005.
Gardner was one of two Yankees this season, the other being David Robertson, to play in the final season at the old Yankee Stadium and to be a part of the Yankees' championship season in 2009. He has emerged as one of the game's best leadoff hitters on top of being one of the best at spoiling pitches and keeping at-bats alive.
An All-Star in 2015 and a Gold Glove winner in 2016, Gardner has done it all for the Yankees.
So the question remains, what should New York do with Gardner?
Why Trade Him?
In 2017, Gardner hit a career-high 21 home runs, 15 in the first half. It is unrealistic to ask him to put up that production in 2018 so it would make sense to trade him while his value is still high.
The Yankees also have a logjam in the outfield going into 2018. They are going to give Aaron Hicks a shot at being the everyday center fielder which leaves Jacoby Ellsbury and his big contract on the bench. If they move on from Gardner, it opens a spot for Ellsbury in a tight outfield. If New York feels that Ellsbury is just a bench player for them in 2018, Clint Frazier is there in the shadows waiting for a chance to make a major impact on this Yankee team.
If the Yankees fail at signing CC Sabathia or Shohei Ohtani, they could consider moving Gardner for starting pitcher. Gardner could net them a quality No. 3 starter which will just deepen the Yankees' rotation which already has Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery.
Why Keep Him?
This season, Gardner was one of three left-handed batters in the Yankees lineup. He brings an element that no other Yankee on the team as constructed with his plate discipline atop the Yankees lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury is not a leadoff hitter anymore and if the Yankees went with one of the kids, they would hit down at the bottom of the Yankees lineup.
Gardner is also one of the best defensive left fielders in all of baseball. He has a career DRS (defensive runs saved) of 40 while playing two of the toughest positions in the outfield. In 2017, he had 12 assists and always seems to take the proper routes when tracking a fly ball. Replacing Gardner's glove in left field would be hard for the Yankees. If they went with a rookie, they would have to be patient as that player develops defensively.
With Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier most likely not a part of New York's plans in 2018, moving Gardner will create a lack of veteran leadership. The Yankees will still be relatively young in 2018 with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino still in the beginning stages of their careers.
Keep Him or Trade Him?
Gardner is too important to this team for New York to move on from him. In a year where the young Yankees are expected to contend for a championship, it is of the utmost importance to have a guy like Gardner around.