With a postseason berth locked up and the regular season nearing completion, it’s an appropriate time to appreciate the individual players who were the biggest contributors to the Yankees’ success. We begin by presenting the award to the Yankees’ Most Valuable Player of the 2010 season…with a NoMaasian twist.

In this type of economic environment, all of us are trying to stretch the value of a dollar (while Ben Bernanke tries to do the opposite. Bada bing!). We’re being frugal. We’re looking for discounts. If we have to spend, we’re doing so in the most cost-effective way possible. We want bang for the buck.

We apply these same principles in determining the Yankees’ Most “Valuable” Player. Which player provided the team with the most production in relation to his salary? Which player gave the Yankees the most bang for the buck? Which player was purchased at Family Dollar and ended up offering Bloomingdale-quality performance?

The answer for this season is very clear. The NoMaas 2010 Most Valuable Player award goes to Brett Gardner. There is no other Yankee who netted more win value over and above his salary than the Thrill from Holly Hill.

When a team makes a decision about signing or trading for a player, the amount of wins that player adds is only half the equation. The team must also take into account the player’s salary to determine his value. For example, if a team were to trade for CC Sabathia, they would be adding his 4 or 5 wins, but they’d also be losing $23 million dollars in their payroll budget. There is a considerable opportunity cost.

Speaking of Big Brown Bear, he is one of only two other candidates would could rightfully vie for the title of Yankees’ MVP by any objective standards. The other is obviously Robinson Cano. We wouldn’t argue with anyone who makes CC or Cano the top dawg.

Cano is a legitimate candidate for MVP of the American League. According to Fangraphs, he’s been worth the most on the Yankees in terms of Wins Above Replacement (6.3) and Dollar Value ($25.2 mil)*. His season was nothing short of fantastic.

There’s less of a case for CC, as he’s “only” been worth 4.8 WAR and $19.1 mil this season. That’s actually less than what the Yankees are paying him. Yet, he absolutely anchored a staff that saw its share of injury and underperformance. We love pitchers as much as the next guy, so if he’s your guy, that’s cool with NoMaas.

In Gardner’s case, he slightly outperformed Sabathia in terms of value, but his 4.9 WAR (worth $19.7 mil) falls well short of Cano’s prodigious achievements.

Yet, in terms of net value, Gardner shines more than any other Yankee. Brett was paid $452,500 dollars this season. That means he profited the Yankees to the tune of $19.25 mil — easily the most on the team. He also did it in over 100 less PAs than Cano.

Sources: Fangraphs & Cot’s Baseball Contracts

Despite the whining of journalists and Red Sox fans, even the Yankees have a budget. They need players whose value exceeds their salary if they are going to be championship-caliber each and every season. The Rays will have plenty of these players for years to come (i.e. Evan Longoria). Players like Brett Gardner allow the Yankees to better leverage their payroll advantage and place top bids for high-salaried players with big WAR totals.

Congratulations to Brett Gardner, NoMaas’ 2010 Most Valuable Yankee — and thank you for such a great season.

*We’re using Fangraphs WAR and dollar values here. Baseball-Reference has different/lower WAR values for both Cano and Gardner.

The Great White Hope