The Gardy Party will keep going for at least one more year. Earlier in the day, Jon Heyman and Mark Feinsand reported talks had once again resumed between the outfielder and the Yankees. It seemed inevitable that the two sides would be able to land on an agreement. A few hours after the initial reports, the Yankees and Brett agreed to a deal. Here are the details:
The options allow the Yankees to lower the
salary cap luxury tax hit for the 2021 season. As we all know, the team’s main offseason goal was to field a championship-caliber team while staying under the $210 million threshold. Their most recent deals bring in solid veterans while allowing themselves some wiggle room to potentially add pieces at the deadline. The Justin Wilson and Darren O’Day contracts have similar option structures. We’re not thrilled with the decision to stay under the luxury tax number, but credit to GM Brian Cashman for finding savvy ways to build out the contracts while acquiring good talent.
We all know what we’re getting with Gardner. He will bring plus defense in left and center, provide some thump from the left side, and continue his role as a clubhouse leader. There really is no downside to bringing him back for that money at this point in the offseason.
The bigger question now is bench construction. A few days ago, Aaron Boone said publicly that Clint Frazier is his starting left fielder. I don’t see any reason why Gardner’s return would change that. Brett was a late offseason addition and took a pay cut. His best value comes as a fourth outfielder who most likely pushes Mike Tauchman off the Opening Day roster. With spring training soon to hit full swing, we can currently project the Yankees four-man bench as Brett Gardner, Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade (whoo hoo!), and one of Jay Bruce or Derek Dietrich. There is a chance Robinson Chirinos could take Higgy’s spot, but he may start as AAA catch depth, for now, a la Eric Kratz.
The bench looks much better than it did even a week ago. Brett Gardner’s return plays a pretty big part in that.