Inbox: Will Yanks trade Gardner in offseason?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions
Will the Yankees consider trading Brett Gardner this offseason? Should they?
-- Joan C., Phillipsburg, N.J.
It's possible, as it may be one of the only ways that they can get creative and add flexibility around the roster. The Yanks are theoretically set for Opening Day with Gardner in left field, Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and Carlos Beltran in right field, with Alex Rodriguez blocking Beltran from the more frequent designated hitter at-bats that you'd like to offer.
Gardner was an All-Star in the first half and slumped badly after July 29 (.196 batting average, .561 OPS in 58 games), with injuries likely playing some role there. It was perplexing to see Gardner stop attempting to steal bases for a two-month stretch between June 12 and Aug. 11, which was one of the items manager Joe Girardi scratched his head about after the Amrican League Wild Card Game loss. Was Gardner conceding to bumps and bruises, or had his aggressiveness somehow been shaken?
General manager Brian Cashman said after the season that the Yankees need to get their "dynamic duo" of Gardner and Ellsbury firing on all cylinders again, and that could be one recipe to build a winner in 2016. There's a reason the Yankees wanted to lock both guys in to set the table, and you saw early in the year how well it worked. The opposite course would be using Gardner to clear a spot if they plan on chasing a power-hitting free agent like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes or Jason Heyward.
Initial indications are that this will not be one of those big-spending winters in the Bronx, with only three lesser free agents coming off the books (Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew and Chris Young), but this free-agent class seems more appealing than what will be out there in a year or two, when Mark Teixeira, Beltran, CC Sabathia and A-Rod all see their contracts expire.
Gardner is heading into the second year of a four-year, $52 million deal, which is relatively attractive; we've seen bigger contracts moved in recent years. As a legitimate center fielder with speed who can bat leadoff -- something the Yanks, in theory, already have in Ellsbury -- Gardner would pique the interest of quite a few teams in the marketplace.
Could Masahiro Tanaka's recent elbow surgery be a sign that Tommy John surgery is near?
-- Joe S., Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.
To the contrary, it's probably a good indication that Tanaka will be able to begin 2016 with that partial ulnar collateral ligament tear further in the rear-view mirror; the fact that he was on the operating table and the UCL got another thumbs-up just reinforces that Tanaka and the Yankees are going to continue to push through this.
The Yankees said that the bone spur was a pre-existing condition from Tanaka's time in Japan, though it seemed no one mentioned it publicly until it was removed this week. Because the size of the spur increased, Tanaka opted to have it removed now so he can be prepared for Spring Training. The Rays' Chris Archer applauded Tanaka on Twitter for pitching through it, offering him "much respect" with a couple of emojis sprinkled in.
There was more concern that Tanaka's right forearm strain earlier in the season was a warning sign of inevitable Tommy John surgery, but as of now, we're fine with penciling in Tanaka to start Opening Day on April 4 against the Astros (just 164 days away!).
Any chance that the Yankees would be interested in Don Mattingly as their new hitting coach?
-- Bonnie K. Bethlehem, Pa.
Now that would be a popular move in the wake of Mattingly's mutual parting on Thursday with the Dodgers. Mattingly served for three seasons as the Yankees' hitting coach under Joe Torre, but there's already early buzz that the Marlins have interest in plugging Mattingly in as their manager -- just one of a few opportunities that he could pursue.
It's early, and the Yankees are still discussing the coaching staff as their organizational meetings continue, but current assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell could be one candidate to replace Jeff Pentland. The Yanks floated Raul Ibanez's name last offseason, and they are high on Minor League coaches James Rowson and Marcus Thames.
With Teixeira presumably back at first for 2016, what are the Yankees going to do with Greg Bird?
-- Justin N., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Cashman was asked that question right when the season ended, and his take was that if Teixeira and A-Rod are both healthy, it "would create a problem" to find a spot for Bird on the 25-man roster. The Yankees don't see Bird playing another position other than first base and designated hitter, which could mean that Bird has to cool his heels in Triple-A while waiting for an opportunity. Remember, Teixeira's contract expires after 2016 -- hard to believe those eight years are already almost up.
What are the Yankees' true feelings on Rob Refsnyder? He seemed to perform well when they gave him a chance.
-- Tom R., Brooklyn, N.Y.
As best we can decipher, the Yankees liked Refsnyder this past summer, but had some serious doubts about his ability to play second base at a big league level, considering him a work in progress. Refsnyder believed he made progress on that front after his first cup of coffee in the big leagues, and perhaps what the Yankees saw in September was enough to change some opinions -- despite a small sample size.
As the Yankees prepare to head into 2016, they see Refsnyder as someone they will continue developing as a second baseman, believing that his bat will play at the big league level. Remember, the Yankees did turn down an offer from the Athletics for Ben Zobrist, because it was going to cost them Refsnyder and Adam Warren. There is value.
Refsnyder is in the mix with Dustin Ackley to compete at second base. That provides Cashman with some level of comfort as they consider other choices (Zobrist? Daniel Murphy? Howie Kendrick? Drew?), but the short answer is that they aren't handing Refsnyder the keys to a starting job at the moment.