Yankees News/Rumors: Brett Gardner likely to return, Adam Ottavino could be traded

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

The New York Yankees have made a number of significant moves over the past few days, but don’t expect them to slow down now. General manager Brian Cashman is making his presence known at the perfect time, as the free-agent market begins to heat up after COVID-19 undoubtedly took its toll on team financials and set back the hot stove month several weeks.

The Yankees have since retained DJ LeMahieu and signed former Cy Young pitcher Corey Kluber. However, the rumors continue to swirl, and the Yankees could look to retain one more familiar face and open up some salary space with a potential trade.

One player that has waited patiently this free agency period is Brett Gardner, who has spent his entire career with the Yankees since 2008.

Gardner stated during the regular season in 2020 that he wanted to return for one more year so his kids could see him play in person, one last time. It seems like he will have his wish granted by Cashman, but the two sides are still negotiating, and there is optimism a deal will get done for 2021.

Buster Olney of ESPN stated that the Yankees want to bring back Gardner for hid 14th season:

Now that the Yankees have spent on LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, they would like to add pitching depth — maybe a third-tier starter, maybe a reliever — and they would like to bring back Brett Gardner for his 14th season with the team. But if the Yankees are to remain under the $210 million threshold of the competitive balance tax, they don’t have much room. One way they might create some space is exploring a trade of reliever Adam Ottavino, who struggled in the shortened 60-game season. Ottavino, 35, had a 5.89 ERA in 24 appearances in ’20 and is set to make $9 million; presumably, with so many right-handed free agents available, the Yankees would have to eat a chunk of Ottavino’s salary to make a deal.

It is important to note that the Yankees don’t have a ton of monetary flexibility available, with about $10 million more left to spend in free agency if they want to stay beneath the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

Cashman previously rejected the club option for Gardner this upcoming season, which would’ve counted $10 million. They had to buy out Gardy at $2.5 million, so he will have to settle for a minimal deal if he wants to return to the Yankees next season. However, I am under the assumption that he will make the sacrifice just to play one more year in front of his family.

To open up more flexibility, though, the Yankees could consider trading Adam Ottavino, who struggled significantly in 2020. As Buster Olney states, his struggles make him a liability and considering his AAV, they could save a bit of cash from parting ways. In 2021, Otto is scheduled to earn $9 million in adjusted salary. That would open up plenty of money to go out and find a more consistent relief pitcher who can offer some fresh blood in the bullpen.