The New York Yankees have plenty of decisions to make this offseason on how to improve the team, and win another World Series. Discussing the possible return of Brett Gardner is not high on their priority list, as in past years, the answer to his return will be one of the last items on their agenda before the start of 2022 spring training.
With all the discussion on social media on whether Gardner and the Yankees ink a deal, I decided to poll Yankee fans in five Yankee fan groups on Facebook. I gave them the option of yes the Yankees need him, no his time is done, and yes, but only as a coach. Here is the outcome of 442 respondents: Yes – 46%, No – 39%. and as a coach 15%. It’s not overwhelming, but Yankees fans feel he will be back for the 2022 season.
This writer believes that much about his return has to do with Aaron Hicks, who is no lock on staying healthy. If the Yankees bring in a back up centerfielder above Gardner’s grade, our 14 year veteran is gone, if not there is a good chance he will return. Even at age 39 he has proven he can play in 140 games while staying healthy.
At the end of the 2020 season, many, if not most, Yankee fans felt Brett Gardner’s time with the Yankees was coming to a close. Just days before the start of the 2021 season Gardner still had not been re-signed, but in the final days of the offseason, Gardner and the Yankees came to a deal bringing the 14-year veteran back for yet another year. Most of this was powered by Gardner’s desire to play at least one more year with fans in the stands. The same is true this year, he is not ready to give up the game he loves.
When Yankees resigned him, the plan was to use him as a versatile bench player. The reality is that he has been anything but that, playing in 140 games ,plus the one wild card game. mostly due to the need to have him on the field with the many outfield injuries, especially to Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier, causing Gardner to be the teams’ everyday centerfielder. But now, in the postseason run, Gardner had become a must-be in the lineup, hitting .325 in September. For some fleeting reason, Gardner heated up in September and has helped the Yankees reach the postseason in the last three seasons. He ended the season with a .222 average and 10 home runs.
Like the heralded legend Yogi Berra once quipped, “it’s not over till it’s over.” Though never the team’s superstar, Gardner shows us he still has much to offer with his baserunning and defense, and can still be clutch getting a walk-off win, one night he went with a bloop single that gave the Yankees the win. He went 3 for 4 with 2 singles and a double driving in two of the Yankees 4 runs.
When the terms of the Gardner deal were made known, Jon Heyman of the MLB Network reported that the contract included $1.85 million and a $1 million signing bonus in 2021 as well a player and a club option for 2022. Gardner’s player option in 2022 would be worth $2.3 million and would convert to a $7.15.
The Yankees have already rejected the team option and Gardner the player option. Should he come back for another season is will likely be on a similar offer as least season.