Although Yankees officials have been adamant in saying outfielder Brett Gardner will not be moved this offseason, there is a potential fit between Gardner and the Chicago Cubs – a relationship that could bloom next offseason when he reaches free agency.
Granted, with aging outfielders like Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano on the roster, New York could look to bring the versatile Gardner back to the Bronx next winter. But with two of the three outfield spots filled for the next few years in the form of recently acquired Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, Gardner could be better suited seeking a better opportunity elsewhere.
Chicago will have the likes of Jorge Soler and Albert Almora at the big league level in coming years, likely joining the likes of Junior Lake, who was on a tear in the Dominican Winter League before being shut down due to fatigue last week.
However, a versatile bat such as Gardner could be valuable not only in terms of his offensive and defensive contributions, but also in terms of being a proven winner who could mentor the younger players coming up in the next couple of seasons.
A career .268/.353/.381 hitter, Gardner has a 162-game average of 46 steals, which will admittedly decline over the next few seasons, but his presence could prove to be a major asset. It would also allow Chicago to explore trading one of their outfielders in hopes of landing more pitching depth – something that has eluded the organization during much of the ongoing rebuilding process.
An outfield with any combination of Lake, Soler, Almora and Gardner is one that would give solid defense behind Cubs’ pitchers, provide near-constant offense and help return the franchise to respectability.
It’s time to teach the youth how to win.