Yesterday, the New York Yankees were dealt a blow with the news that centerfielder Brett Gardner would miss at least two weeks (and that’s liberally conservative, if that even makes sense to you) with a broken left thumb.
Gardner, who is proving himself as an option as a longterm leadoff man, will have his thumb in a cast for a minimum of two weeks. Barring setbacks, he would probably need a week or so in the minor leagues before he could be activated. This keeps him out of commission until the end of August, at a time where the Yankees are dueling with the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox, both on the field and in the standings.
25, Gardner is hitting .275/.354/.400 on the year in exactly 200 at-bats. He’s notched 20 stolen bases, three home runs, four doubles and six triples. With a 31/23 K/BB ratio, he’s also showing an ability to keep the ball in play to take advantage of his legs.
On defense, his legs clearly help him. He’s posted a stellar 15.9 UZR/150, while contributing with the arm, posting a 3.5 Outfield Arms Above Average. Gardner wasn’t starting full-time, as he had Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera all to contend with. However, he was immensely useful in his ability to keep Damon and Matsui rested while serving as a pinch-runner off the bench.
Now, his place is filled full-time by Melky Cabrera who at age 24 is still incredibly young. After posting a .280/.360/.391 line at age 21 in 460 at-bats, many people were high on him. Despite more than ample opportunities to succeed the next two years, Cabrera slid down to being a backup outfielder. He’s surged back up this year to post the best OPS (.786) of his career and show developing power with eight home runs (tied for a career high) and 16 doubles (10 away from tying his career-high).
Cabrera’s knock is his defense. He’s posted a career -8.3 UZR/150 in center, although the last two years has balanced out to zero, with his 2007 season holding him back. He does have a proclivity to being able to play right field, but the small sample size and poor arm don’t lend him long-term stability in that position.
The Yankees clearly downgraded with the loss of Gardner, to the point where it may cost them a win or two while he’s out. In the American League (B)East, that can’t happen.