New York Yankees: Bad news for Brett Gardner in hunt for a contract

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, Brett Gardner
Oct 4, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner (11) hits a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins in game one of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, New York Yankees veteran outfielder Brett Gardner made it known that he wanted to return for one more season. Having played in front of nobody for 60 games, Gardner wanted his family to see him in pinstripes one last time, but the Yankees went ahead and reject his $10 million club option for 2021. Instead, they elected to settle on his $2.5 million buyout, and while Gardner still desires to make a return, the Yankees aren’t willing to spend more than a few million on his services.

In fact, after 13 years of service in pinstripes, Gardy hasn’t even been considered since Halloween. General manager Brian Cashman did make a statement several weeks ago indicating that they always find a way to bring back the esteemed leader. However, this scenario feels slightly different, as the Yankees don’t have too much financial flexibility and still have a few holes on the roster they need to fill with adequate talent.

According to Randy Miller of NJ.com:

According to a baseball source who asked to remain anonymous, the Yankees haven’t addressed Gardner’s status since last Halloween. That’s when the organization announced that it opted to pay Gardner a $2.5 million buyout instead of vesting a $10 million club option for 2021.

As a sign of good faith, I do expect Cashman to offer him a simple contract for one more season, but nothing more than $3 million. The Yankees don’t have the cash on hand to spend, and after his $2.5 million buyout, don’t expect him to get an offering in the $7 million range.

How did Brett Gardner perform last season?

During the 2020 season, Gardner finished with a .223 average, five homers, and 15 RBIs. He logged a career-high 16.5% walk rate and struck out 22.2% of the time. He recorded his lowest WAR since 2012 when he played in only 16 games. It was clear that Brett had a down season, but he is a player that often elevates his game with more at-bats and momentum. Playing in just 49 games didn’t allow him to hit his stride, as he had 28 homers and 74 RBIs in 2019. He is still an adequate defensive player who offers plenty of value in that category, but his offensive prowess has died off at a consistent rate, aside from the 2019 anomaly.

It is expected that the Yankees will continue scouring the market for outfielder depth, but bringing Gardy back would be the easy decision. He offers a lefty bat in the order, something the Yankees aren’t flush with. While things have been quiet regarding his contract negotiations, I imagine he is sitting up in a tree hunting deer somewhere in the United States, but with spring training just six days away, he must be feeling a bit antsy.