Yankees Free Agency: Brett Gardner reunion heating up with needs in the outfield

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees and veteran outfielder Brett Gardner have a special relationship that often relies on loyalty and trust. Last year, when Gardner signed a two-year extension with a player option for the 2022 season, Cashman called Gardy up at his home, asking him if he’d like to come back on another deal with free agency coming to a close.

Of course, the reliable outfielder elected to make a return to baseball, and he ended up playing a big part in the 2021 season due to injuries across the team.

Gardner made 140 appearances, hitting .222 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs. He recorded a 21.7% strikeout rate and 13% walk rate, showcasing his usual patience at the plate but a slight uptick in strikeout percentage compared to the 2019 and 2018 seasons.

Cashman has many different players to consider when the lockout finally comes to an end, ranging from shortstop Carlos Correa to star first baseman Freddie Freeman. If the Yankees are looking to drop big money on a prospective player, they will have to satisfy other needs with cost-efficient contracts.

When looking at shortstop, management is excited about the possibilities of Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, so locking Correa into a 10-year deal at the position might not be their most strategic method. First-base is a bit more flexible, with Luke Voit battling injury last season and Anthony Rizzo hitting free agency after his contract expired.

In addition to both shortstop and first-base, the Yankees need support in the starting pitching rotation and outfield depth, which is where Gardner can make a return.

Aaron Boone currently has Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Gallo, and Aaron Hicks at his disposal in the outfield but lost Tyler Wade, Clint Frazier, and Gardner this off-season.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke to Gardner‘s agent, who indicated that he would like to continue playing in 2022 and prefers to stay with the Yankees for the rest of his career. Gardner has enjoyed 14 years of service in the MLB, and given the significant amount of injuries the Yankees have dealt with in the past, having a reliable backup who can run the bases well and provide above-average defense is always a benefit. However, the Yankees can’t afford for Brett to be a prominent starter moving forward, given his limitations.