Here's a look at what some possible off-season Yankee targets have been doing so far this year, along with how much money Fangraphs says they're worth, and what that projects to over 162 games.
Before going any further, allow me a moment to explain single-season value estimations. Invariably, these are higher than the reasonable sums a team would pay in average annual value in a long term contract. A player tends to be worth more for a single season's work than for longer. For example, after 2007 if Alex Rodriguez signed a one-year deal, would $50 million have been unreasonable?
Whenever I take a look at possible free agents at the end of the season I always include Werth. For those who don't know, Jayson Werth is awesome. He hits for power. He steals bases. He plays solid defense. The difference between him and Crawford this year is due to UZR. Fangraphs says that Werth is a slightly below-average fielder this year (but very good for his career) while Crawford is playing out of his mind in all aspects of the game (did someone say contract year?).
Looking at the above data, I stand by my vote. I believe that by now we know what the Yankees get with Brett Gardner: great defense, awesome speed, an average bat, with little power. If he's around .350 wOBA by year's end I will use all of my influence to convince the team to go for Cliff Lee. The Bombers won it all last year with Melky Cabrera and his .331 wOBA.
The money figures support this. Odds are the Yankees will be willing to sign one marquee free agent, meaning that the team can't get both Crawford and Lee. Fortunately, the Yankees already have Brett Gardner. Right now Gardner plus Lee is worth more than Crawford alone.
*Photo source: Sports Illustrated