New York Yankees decline two player options with Brett Gardner, JA Happ, what now?

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, Brett Gardner
USA Today

Following the conclusion of the World Series, the New York Yankees haven’t wasted any time in getting deals done and declining several player options.

The first news to break was that the Yankees would be retaining relief pitcher Zack Britton, who has had two consecutive fantastic seasons for the Yankees since he signed a three-year, $39 million deal back in 2019.

Britton had a player option for the 2021 season, but that was erased by a club option for the Yankees in 2022. With the Bombers picking up that option, they will owe him $14 million next season and have control of him for two more years. That is a great deal for the Yankees, who will need his services in the future.

During an abbreviated 2020 campaign, Britton enjoyed a 1.89 ERA, striking out 16 batters and allowing zero home runs.

The New York Yankees made two more moves on Thursday:

Moving onto the declined player options, the Yankees elected to part ways with veteran outfielder Brett Gardner and JA Happ. However, that doesn’t stop them from potentially signing new deals worth less money. In Gardner’s case, I imagine the Yankees want to retain him given his health history and familiarity with the team.

Gardy was expected to earn $10 million if the Yankees picked up his option, but instead, they will pay a $2.5 million buy-out and likely offer him a more team-friendly deal. At 37 years old, Gardner still has plenty of value to offer but struggled offensively during the 2020 season. He finished with a .223/.354/.392 slash line, hitting five homers over 158 plate appearances.

If the Yankees can keep him around at about $5 million for next season, I think that would be an ideal scenario. That would lower their overall expenditure attached to his name to about $7.5 million (including buyout), allowing them to allocate more money toward a starting pitcher or bullpen arm.

As for Happ, this was always going to be an easy decision for the Yankees, considering they would have paid him $17 million in 2021 if his vesting option was exercised.

Thankfully, they will move on from the former Toronto Blue Jay and save plenty of capital to invest in another starter. With Tanaka earning $23 million last season, James Paxton earning $12 million, and Happ $17 million, the Yanks have about $52 million to work with.

However, the team lost significant revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I don’t believe their financial flexibility will remain the same this upcoming off-season — they do have the open capital to invest if they choose to do so.