Who Will Lead Off for the 2016 Nationals?

Brett Gardner

The 32-year-old Yankees outfielder is another option who could be had via trade.

Garner’s career line of .246/.346/.392 is pretty darn Spanian – and he’s a lefty, which, as mentioned, the Nationals are serious about addressing. His career has been remarkably consistent, and he has been durable. Looking at the past several years, excluding his injury-shortened 2012 campaign, we see:

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Gardner’s 2010 season, the best of his career, was a profound “leadoff guy” year. He walked far more than an average American League hitter and struck out about a percentage point less. He stole bases at an outstanding 83.9 percent clip, or 47 swipes in 56 tries, in line with his 80.8 percent career success rate. His 20 doubles, seven triples and five homers show a guy who could leg out extra base hits while running into some pop. In sum, he showed disruptive capabilities in all aspects of the offensive game.

His 2015 campaign was really a tale of two seasons: Gardner slashed a fantastic .302/.377/.484 in the first half, and a miserable .206/.300/292 in the second.

His peripherals (walk rate, strikeout rate) remained steady, but his BABIP swung from a high first-half figure (.363) to an insanely low second-half figure (.247.) It’s seems obvious to say, but Gardner was neither as good as his peak nor as bad as his valley.

Assuming a deal for him could be made, where would he play in Washington? The team has Werth, Taylor and Harper essentially locked in at left, center and right fields, respectively. To Gardner’s credit, he’s got extensive experience at all three outfield spots. Does he supplant Taylor in center?

It’s complicated.

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