Brett Gardner was honored at the Munson Awards Dinner last night, and he took time out to speak to the media about the Yankee offseason and expectations for the upcoming season. When asked about his reaction to the Jacoby Ellsbury signing, Gardner was pretty straightforward and honest:
“I was surprised at first. I didn't really see that coming."
Gardner went on to praise Ellsbury and said he's looking forward to playing with him this year, but I can see where he's coming from. It looked like Gardner was going to seize the center field reins for good when he took C-Grand's spot last year and after only 1 year he had the job taken away from him heading into a contract year. That has to sting a little.
From a baseball perspective it makes sense. Gardner is a good but not great hitter and Ellsbury is a little better than him, and he was a good but not great defender in center field last year according to most metrics and Ellsbury is a little better than him there as well. Gardner's defensive value is maximized in left and I think he'll compete for all the major outfield awards in 2014 if he stays healthy. And who knows, if he uses this as motivation, maybe his offensive output will jump back up to 2010 levels or better. Still, it's never fun to lose your job and the decision to sign Ellsbury and move Gardner back to left may end up pushing Gardner to look elsewhere when he hits the FA market next offseason.