Brett Gardner Remains a Yankee

At this point in his career, seeing Brett Gardner in anything but Yankees pinstripes would have come as a surprise. That’s why it is no shock that Gardner and the Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $12.5 million contract, a deal that includes a club option for 2021 valued at $10 million, as first reported by George King of the New York Post.

Gardner, now 36, has spent his entire 12-year big-league career in New York, and with the retirement of CC Sabathia, remains the last holdover from the Yankees’ 2009 World Series squad. This new deal represents his third time negotiating with the Yankees to extend his stay; the first time Gardner was headed for free agency, the two sides agreed to four-year, $52 million extension beginning in 2015 with a club option for 2019. The Yankees declined that option but brought him back anyway on a one-year, $7.5 million contract, his first signed as a free agent.

Gardner had one of his most productive seasons to date on his one-year deal, earning every penny and more. In 550 trips to the plate, Gardner slashed .251/.325/.503, setting full-season career-highs in home runs (28) and wRC+ (115) to boot. Always a great all-around player, he still graded out positively in both center and left field while adding nearly five runs on the bases. In total, he was worth 3.6 WAR.

While at least some of his offensive success could be attributed to the juiced ball, Gardner was so solid with the bat due in part to effective utilization. Of his 131 starts this season, 96 of them came against a right-handed starter, the platoon side which he has favored for nearly his entire career (109 wRC+ vs. RHP, 88 wRC+ vs. LHP). Gardner mashed righties in 2019 in particular, posting a .265/.346/.546 line against them, good for a 131 wRC+. That is why upon taking a glance at the Yankees’ projected 2020 roster, we have pegged Gardner into a platoon versus right-handed pitching.

Regardless of Gardner’s exact role next year, it will be interesting to see what the Yankees decide to do in the outfield. Aaron Hicks had Tommy John surgery at the end of October and is not expected to return until June at the earliest. With the roster as it is currently constructed, the Yankees’ outfield will likely consist of some combination of Clint Frazier, Gardner, Aaron Judge, Mike Tauchman, and Tyler Wade for the first half of the season.

For a potential two-to-three-win player, $12.5 million seems like a solid deal for the Yankees. It comes in above the median crowdsource projection ($8 million) but below Kiley’s ($13 million). In addition, the deal pushes their projected luxury tax payroll up to roughly $262 million, above the $248 million figure that would result in their draft position moving back 10 spaces. As I wrote earlier today, New York has expressed a willingness to trade J.A. Happ in order to clear some salary. Even still, the Yankees’ offseason is unlikely to remain quiet, as the team is still targeting upgrades in their bullpen, with Ken Rosenthal reporting today that they are part of the trade market for Josh Hader.

As for teams who are still interested in outfield help, the vast majority of the market remains unsigned. Marcell Ozuna, Nicholas Castellanos, and Yasiel Puig headline the remaining outfield free agents, but players such as Corey Dickerson, Avisaíl García, and Brock Holt should generate some interest as well.

All told, the Yankees have filled holes rather quickly this offseason, making plenty of noise at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Starting pitching was always a priority, and they filled that by signing arguably the best pitcher in the game in Gerrit Cole. Bringing Gardner back was also high on their list, and as the Winter Meetings wrapped up on Thursday, they locked that one down in a deal that makes everyone happy.

Devan Fink is a Contributor at FanGraphs. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.

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3 years ago

I’d hate to live in an apartment above Brett Gardner.

3 years ago
Reply to  Devan Fink

Same. This is the only site where I actually read comments and expect to have a HIGHER regard for humans after, but this one made me laugh out on the subway

Mike NMN
3 years ago
Reply to  tz

Maybe the most acute observation made on this site in weeks. Well struck, TV.

Ryan DCmember
3 years ago
Reply to  tz

Can someone explain this joke to me, it went right over my head

3 years ago
Reply to  Ryan DC

Gardner tends to smash dugout roofs with his bat when he’s angry