Yankees: How a 60-Game Season Affects These Impending NYY Free Agents

Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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The New York Yankees will potentially see four impact players hit the free agent market this winter.

It has been a very strange and disappointing 2020, to say the least. The MLB has become a mess as the owners and players were unable to come to an agreement for a season, leading commissioner Rob Manfred to step in and implement a 60-game season scheduled to start on July 23.

And that could be a problem for some impending free agents. With a season this short, players who get off to slow starts won’t have the luxury of figuring it out over the course of what is usually a 162-game slate. On the flip side, players who come out of the gates hot could luck out and inflate their value come negotiating time in November.

Players will earn a full year of service time, despite the season only coming out to about 37% of the usual length.

Nevertheless, general manager Brian Cashman and the rest of the Yankees front office will have some tough decisions to make this coming offseason with these impending FAs.

OF Brett Gardner

Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The first of those offseason decisions for Cashman will once again be what to do with Brett Gardner, the team’s longest-tenured player. After hitting free agency following a career year in 2019, the Yankees brought Gardner back on a one-year, $10 million deal with a team option for 2021 (that has a $2.5 million buyout).

Last offseason, it was an easier decision to bring back the veteran for what will be his 13th year in Pinstripes. He had a career-high 28 HR and 74 RBI in his age-35 season, in addition to serving as a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder and finding himself in the lineup as a regular due to a plethora of injuries.

Another factor that made re-signing Gardner a rather easy one for the front office was the fact that Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge were both set to start 2020 on the injured list. Without them, the Yankees would’ve been rolling out an outfield of Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Tauchman, and Clint Frazier (before Stanton got hurt).

Barring any more injuries or trades between now and the start of 2021, the Yankees will still have all five of the aforementioned players healthy and under contract, so picking up Gardner’s $10 million option may not be worth it. Sure, the depth would be nice, but a 37-year-old at that price tag playing a position of surplus could inspire Cashman to use the money elsewhere.

In terms of what to expect from Gardner, it could be a tale of two halves. Throughout his career, Gardner has struggled early on in seasons. In April, he owns a .699 OPS, which ranks as his third-worst of any month. However, in May, that number shoots up to .812, the second-best of any month in his career.

If you look at the season in terms of the time period it’s being played, it could be a very rough one for the veteran. In the months of August and September, Gardner has an OPS of .673 and .698, respectively, the two worst marks of his career.

First 60 games of 2019: .217/.291/.415 – 9 HR, 23 RBI, 9 2B

Last 60 games of 2019: .272/.338/.594 – 16 HR, 38 RBI, 16 2B