The longest-tenured Yankee won’t be passing his crown to anyone for at least another year. Yesterday, the Yankees announced they declined Brett Gardner’s $12.5 million option for 2019, then came to terms with him on a one-year, $7.5 million deal. Gardner also receives an additional $2 million as a contract buyout, but that money counts towards the 2018 salary.
While they’re only paying him $3 million less, they end up saving $5 million towards their 2019 budget. The cost savings isn’t the only benefit here. While Gardner definitely looks like a player on the decline, he still turned in a solid 2018 campaign. As Jake Devin pointed out, his excellent defense and base-running helped the Yankees greatly, even while his bat declined. Gardner is once again nominated for a Gold Glove Award this year, having won in 2015.
In Gardner, the Yankees also get back a vocal leader in their clubhouse. For a young team with World Series aspirations, a steady veteran presence is never a bad thing. Yet, this move is being faced with some negativity.
This one-year deal for Gardner is being called an overpay, and some are scared about roster space and flexibility. Others are worried that this move stops them from making other moves, and some are understandably concerned that this is “all” that the Yankees will do. All of these concerns are fair in their own right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are true.
Gardner obviously isn’t the player he once was, but he’s still solid contributor. His 2019 salary is a little under the cost of a win, which Gardner should be able to match with his glove and speed on the bases. The Yankees are still also “saving” $5 million compared to what he would’ve cost if they had picked up his option.
The concerns about the roster spot are also valid, but going into 2018, the team had a logjam problem that they needed to figure out as well. In 2018, Shane Robinson also played 25 games for the Yankees. These problems have a way of sorting themselves out. No one knows what to expect from Clint Frazier after he battled concussion symptoms all year, and we don’t yet know if the Avengers will be able to defeat and reverse what Thanos did to bring back Jacoby Ellsbury. They simply cannot be counted on right now.
Gardner also isn’t blocking anybody or stopping the Yankees from pursuing other outfield options like Bryce Harper or a reunion with Andrew McCutchen. After Cutch was acquired at the waiver trade deadline, and once the team was 100% healthy, Gardner was more than willing to step into a non-starting role. He’s smart enough to realize he’s not the player he once was and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t do the same again.
The most legitimate concern over the Gardner signing is that this would be all that the Yankees do. That’s not on Gardner, however, that’s on ownership. They worked hard to get under the luxury tax threshold this year, and until they actually go over the limit, I won’t believe they will. Money is the Yankees’ least concern, yet it’s the most concerning. If ownership isn’t willing to spend money and are fine with just the status quo, fans should be concerned.
The Yankees made a good move yesterday in bringing Brett Gardner back for another year. It’s as simple as that. It’s not the shiny new toy fans were hoping to see under their Christmas tree, but it’s a solid move for a player who has proven to be a solid Yankee for 10 years. This doesn’t stop them from making any other moves, nor should it. There’s still a lot of work to do this offseason, but this was a move that made sense for both sides.