Brett Gardner indicated last October that he wanted to return to the Yankees for another season, and almost five months later, the free agent outfielder’s stance hasn’t changed. Joe Bick, Gardner’s agent, told The New York Post’s Joel Sherman that his client was still preparing to play in 2022, and “would obviously prefer to stay with the [Yankees] the entirety of his career.” It isn’t a Bronx-or-bust situation, however, as Bick said that Gardner is open to playing for another club.
After 14 seasons in the pinstripes, Gardner is still putting up respectable numbers even as he approaches his age-38 season. Gardner was a 1.4 fWAR player over 140 games and 461 plate appearances last year, with his strong baserunning and decent left field/center field glovework offsetting a below-average (90 OPS+, 93 wRC+) slash line of .222/.327/.362. Gardner retained his good eye at the plate, finishing in the 92nd percentile of all players in walk rate. On the down side, Gardner delivered his sixth consecutive season of subpar hard-contact numbers, finishing well below the league average in hard-hit ball percentage, barrels, and barrel percentage.
As Sherman notes, most of Gardner’s offensive struggles took place early in the season, and before the league-mandated crackdown on doctored baseballs. Gardner had only a .507 OPS over his first 137 plate appearances last season, and then a much more solid .768 OPS over his final 324 PA.
It is also possible that Gardner might have been more productive if the Yankees had more flexibility in choosing when to deploy the veteran. Instead, Gardner ended up playing in 140 games due to a variety of injuries to other New York outfielders. While the Yankees figure to make some kind of move to their current outfield mix, they could simply opt to bring back a known quantity in Gardner, either alongside a more notable addition or maybe as the veteran complement to a younger outfielder (i.e. Estevan Florial) the Yankees hope can break out as a capable big leaguer.
The Bronx Bombers have re-signed Gardner to one-year contracts in each of the last three winters. His one-year, $12.5MM deal for the 2020 season carried a 2021 club option that was declined, and his most recent contract (a one-year, $5.15MM pact) had a twin option. Gardner had the first choice of whether or not to accept a $2.3MM player option for 2022, and if declined, the Yankees could then decide on a $7.15MM club option with a $1.15MM buyout. Both Gardner and the team declined the options, sending Gardner to the open market once again.
If Gardner did indeed look elsewhere for his next deal, he’ll face a lot of competition in the post-lockout signing frenzy. Teams may prefer younger (and cheaper) outfield depth options than a 38-year-old, though on the flip side, some clubs might appreciate the chance to get an experienced veteran into their clubhouse. The Phillies and Marlins have each been speculatively mentioned as potential fits for Gardner, as both teams have needs in the outfield and Gardner has longstanding ties to Phillies manager Joe Girardi and Marlins CEO Derek Jeter from their time together in New York.
He can still play a bit, but I’m bit surprised he didn’t take the option, even though half of it were already guaranteed. He’s earned $88M so far in his career, and if he just wants to play one more season, why not stay with the comfortable situation he had?
Gardner will likely be back with the Yankees. They’ll need a 4th OFer, one who can play CF, preferably a lefty, someone with speed. If Gardner was a free agent coming from another team, the Yankees would look at him and sign him since he fits what their needs as a 4th OFer.
Now saying that, the problem with Gardner is not Gardner. The Yankees for the last several seasons keep slotting him as the 4th OFer, but he ends up playing full time. I’d prefer they push Hicks into the 4th OFer role and sign/trade for a CFer, or at worst, sign a stronger 4th OFer to pair with Hicks. The problem is these guys are not easy to find.
Gardner will be playing for some team in 2022, and my guess is he’ll be back with the Yankees.
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
I am a little surprised he didn’t pick up the option too. He could probably make more than $1.15 million next season but not a ton more. If spending his entire career as a Yankee were that important to him, you would think he would take a very slight pay it to do it at his age 38 season when he just hit 10% worse than a league average hitter. It seems like he’s trying to thread the needle and get as much money as possible and just hope the Yankees offer that. Considering he’s not so great anymore and he’s already made over $88 million it seems like the pittance extra he would get for leaving wouldn’t be enough to make him risk losing the status as “New York Yankee for life.” Of course he may not care as much about that as he says he does but I would think at this point it would be a big enough deal to him that he would be willing to lose about 1% of his eventual total career earnings to keep that status. I know I would. I know Chipper Jones said players frequently have to make financial sacrifices to stay with one team their entire career. Chipper definitely made a much bigger sacrifice than Gardner would ever have to make and he doesn’t regret any of it. Gardner wouldn’t be giving up much money to stay a Yankee for life and he still decided not to. He will probably regret it in the end if he doesn’t go back to the Yanks. My guess is that Gardner’s first season outside of a Yankee uniform will also be his last season in MLB. That’s a pretty sour way to end a career just to increase his total net worth by around 1%. I’m no Yankees fan but staying a Yankee for life should be something every player who came up with that team should be willing to make some minor sacrifices to keep intact. Chances are the Yankees pay him more than $1.15 million next year and it’s worth it for him. It’s still a risk though. I don’t think the market is going to pay him much more so the reward for that risk seems small.
@mike156 Taking into consideration how the contract was structured for luxury tax purposes, I think they had a gentlemen’s agreement that both sides were going to decline the option. He’ll resign with the Yankees if they want him again.
The Yankees will only sign Gardy for keeping the team’s salary cap. So, Hal will have more pennies. Gardy has no arm….the Yankees need to run a relay from left field to third base or second. He never learned to bunt, and he never uses his speed on the bases. He’s too old to swing the bat as he only swings hoping for contact. Sorry Gardy, you need to find a new profession.
Ducky Buckin Fent
Dude, Brett Gardner has made almost $90 mil playing baseball. He will probably retire before he turns 40. Looks to me like his current “profession” is working out extremely well.
He’ll end up back on the Yankees on a 1 year deal to be a “backup” OFer and end up playing 140 games when the injuries start rolling in.
Let him walk away. No need to resign him for nostalgia’s sake. Had a great career in the Bronx
This pretty much applies to his last 3 to 4 seasons in pinstripes lol
I get it from his perspective: He was worth 1 WAR, which is worth about $4-$8M, so call it $6M.
Even with a veteran discount with the assumption he’d play less in 2022, he was worth only slightly less than the club option and worth significantly more than the player option.
I think a 1 year deal for the difference of the two options, $4.725M, would be very appropriate and fair.
A similarly structured deal to his last one, this time structured with a $1.575M signing bonus, $1.575M base salary and $1.575M buyout on a $4.85M club option and a $3.85M player option.
The top 5 WAR leaders in 2021 ranged from 7 WAR to 9 WAR.(From ESPN) You really think those players should’ve made between $42 million and $54 million? Using WAR, a stat that doesn’t even have a set equation to figure its value? Uhhhh, ok
The idea that one WAR can be quantified into an exact monetary value is and always has been completely absurd. And no, there is no individual player worth 50 million a year.
And yet there are guys making $38 million a year, $43.34 million a year and so on, so it may be that nobody is that valuable, but that’s how guys get paid.
I realize the WAR value is estimated and inconsistent and based more on what team budgets are divided by players’ productivity against how many games they win and so there’s no definitive way to value a player, but the fact is Gardner was reasonably productive and consistent for the Yankees and was not exactly a black hole for them and was worth $4M or $5M for one year in 2022.
I still think they should re-sign him to 1 year for $4.725M in 2022, structured into thirds from a signing bonus to the base salary to the buyout. Or give him like 1 year/$1M and give him $25k for every game started with a $1M buyout on an option who’s value is the same ($1M base plus $25k per game started, etc.)
I actually agree that Gardner could be worth 4 million. I just don’t like the idea that WAR can be valued monetarily. I don’t think any player is worth 50 million per, yet I do think Gardner is reasonably worth 4.
Out of genuine curiosity and not challenging you, what *do* you think players are worth?
The reason I am okay with one player making up to $50 million a year is that teams are very profitable.
The Braves reportedly made $6 million in profit per game last year in 2021 alone. A lot of teams earn a lot of money between TV deals, merchandise sales, ticket sales and so on.
It’s reasonable to think Freddie Freeman was a huge part of that due to his popularity with consumers aka fans and reliability as a player aka the overall product baseball is selling as a sport and an industry.
I think it’s totally fair that a player is compensated fairly for their value on the field and for their value off the field, if that’s calculable.
Like Aaron Judge- his jerseys sell really well, he’s a very popular local spokesperson for regional businesses in the tristate area. Even having a mediocre year for him on the field, he’d be completely worth a $15 million salary based on the way Yankees gear and products directly associated with him sell and for the prices they sell at.
To me it’s simple. Very few teams can afford to run out a payroll of 200 million plus. (Of course some may disagree, but I think it’s a reasonable idea). So even a team that can afford a 200 million dollar payroll, if their first signing is Trout at 50 million a year, they suddenly have become Mike Trout plus 150 million to spend. If they sign two more top tier players at say, 25 each, they now have 3 great players and 100 million left. It’s just waaaay to much of the payroll being spent on one or two or three players. It can’t work. And the notion that a worker makes back the amount that they earn for a business is simply not a principle anyway. Regular workers get wages based on the market, not an amount based on company profits. In any case, very few teams can compete if half their payroll is taken up by 3 players. This isn’t basketball, no one player is that important.
Just to be clear, I do think that Aaron Judge is worth 15 million a year, probably more. It’s just when salaries start getting well over 20 million per, I think that is unsustainable.
GGBG I hear the weather is fine in Atlanta. Just sayin…
Superstar Prospect Wander Javier
It seems he might be he only player planning to play in 2022
Gardner signing with Miami makes a ton of sense. They need OF help and veteran leadership too. It shouldn’t cost much more than $3M to sign him this year which fits nicely with Miami’s cost-conscious approach and he can play LF and even CF on a part time basis. If he’s the 4th OF in Miami, they can limit his plate appearances to mostly RH pitchers which would help him quite a bit offensively. It would be great to see Gardner finish his career in pinstripes, but it feels like NY is finally prepared to move on from him. If they do choose to move on, Miami is a perfect place for him to finish his career. Beware of the Marlins in 2022; they are going to be much better than most people think. If they stay healthy, they have an outside chance at a wildcard berth. Regardless, they are going to be a tough out for any team they play against.
Kapler's Coconut Oil
I just don’t like the idea of Gardner in that spacious outfield
His D isn’t the problem. He can no longer catch up to the fastball.
Gardner is still an excellent defensive player who can cover a lot of ground.
@BaseballClassic1985- Yes, Gardner could really help the defense in the outfield as a coach. It’s definitely time to retire as a player. Gardy had a nice career. If he retires we can retire his #. No worries.
@Mantooth I can see that happening with the departure of Marte. I think he may even accept less than that to play for Miami if the Yankees decide to move on from him.
FredMcGriff for the HOF
Somewhere Bucky Duckin Fent is reading this article and jumping for joy.
Ducky Buckin Fent
Good Game Bret Gardner is a complete knucklehead grinder. As such, he’s my guy. & I hope he can leave the game on his terms.
But this is a tough one for me, @McGriff. As a 4th outfielder, I would be ecstatic to have GGBG back. The problem is that we can’t count on Hicks making it through the year. So it’s a larger role than a typical 4th OFer.
With how desperately we need runs/bats/offense I think we need a better hitter in that spot. As much as that pains me to type.
Yep it is
Guy hit .222 and is 38. Give me a break. He is done
If the Phillies sign Gardner I’m going to vomit.
I’m not even a Phillies fan, but I might vomit too if that happens.
As Phillies fans…you both should vomit and so on a regular season basis if in fact there is a regular season.
I think Hell freezes over first
Gardner is too solid for an also-ran club like the Phillies. Enjoy winning nothing with Harper for the next dozen years
The last time Gardner was in the WS, it was against the Phillies.
I feel the same about the possibility of the Yankees signing Andrelton Simmons to play SS.
And if he hit 15 HR’s to go along with the .222 and 38 years of age, many would be falling all over his analytics and accomplishments…..sign him as a coach, he’ll stay in shape and with Hicks, Judge, and Stanton in the outfield, sure as anything, they’l be a reason to bring him back to the active roster…the guy is a vet and brings leadership, he understands his current capabilities and can still pick em in the outfield…you can do much worse.
Really don’t understand why the Yankees keep signing him every year. He’s washed up and contributes very little to the team. I always liked Clint Frazier more but injuries doomed his career
The answer is in your comment. Had Frazier or Hicks/Anduljar been healthy, the Yankees wouldn’t have needed Gardner.
LMAO Brett Gardner is a more productive player at age 38 than Clint Frazier is in his mid 20s. For all the crap people talk on Gardy he can still be a dependable 4th outfielder. Frazier is one of the worst players I’ve ever seen be given multiple chances with a major league organization. Worst outfield defense in the league and a terrible hitter without the juiced ball.
Bearded Texas Hulk
Is he going to play in Beer League Softball, cause brother that is all there will be this year.
If Gardy plays I hope he plays elsewhere. I would much rather see Florial or Inciarte get a chance once baseball resumes. Gardy should be on the Yankees staff but no longer needs to take up a roster spot. Still disappointed that Greg Allen was tossed aside after showing some good things in a brief time.
Informed Sportsball Discussion
Not a great time to be an aging free agent on the outside looking in.
steal Jobu’s rum is very bad
Can someone call the old folks home and tell Brett there’s a work stoppage?
Yes, hopefully there is “old folks home” right next to Yankee Stadium. I’m sure the Yankees would love Gardy as an outfield coach next year when there’s an actual season.
Just the news Cashman was waiting to hear…
I love Gardy, but really hope the Yanks finally move on. Give Florial a chance as the backup OF.
Florial seems to be a wish he was that never will be for the Yankees….they need to move on from him more than Gardy!
Hard for vets to hang up Spikes! For 1 more year Brett, you wanna play. Move on elsewhere, sorry but Yanks have too many players & decisions & signings to make. You always will be a Yankee & a fans fav. Peace out
For who and in what country will Brett Gardner play in 2022?
Beer league softball? Because it ain’t gonna be for the Yankees. Gardner straight garbage. Never been a winner, never a difference maker, never better then mediocre. Good riddance.
Season is cancelled but Brett still wants to play
Weak armed, poor hitting, old outfielder….and what’s the decision now ?