Yankees surprisingly sign lefty slugger as likely Brett Gardner replacement


The Yankees are going to sign Jay Bruce to a minor-league deal. Seriously.

Want to see a magic trick?

Watch Brian Cashman talk out of the side of his mouth to praise Brett Gardner as he adds a much cheaper lefty option on a minor-league deal.

Gardy holds a permanent place in this locker room, and the franchise is forever thankful for the leadership he provides, but the most recent deal he signed with the Yankees prior to 2020 (one year, $12.5 million total, an $8 million annual salary) seems laughable in the 2021 context. As the offseason’s dragged on, it’s seemed likelier and likelier that Gardy has no interest in the $1-to-$2 million range offers that Cashman has probably been favoring.

So, great. A stalemate. What’s next?

On Saturday, the New York Yankees came to an agreement with former Mets, Indians, Reds and (most recently) Phillies lefty Jay Bruce, who provides prodigious power at a discount rate.

Knee-jerk assessment? The Yankees could’ve done much worse here.

What does Jay Bruce bring to the Yankees?

Bruce, who will be 34 by April, hasn’t been a terribly effective player since 2017, when he was a borderline All-Star with the Mets who became an excellent midseason pickup for the Indians.

It’s tough to recall these days, but Bruce’s pop led the Tribe to their deserved spot as the American League favorites as the 2017 regular season wrapped up — before their quest was upended by your beloved Yankees instead, who won the ALDS in five games.

Bruce even socked a home run against David Robertson to tie Game 2 of that series in the eighth inning, which the Indians would eventually go on to dramatically win. Again, largely forgotten! But it was a huge moment at the time.

In 2019, his most recent full season, Bruce had a very “modern baseball” season, slamming 26 homers between Seattle and Philly in just 98 games. You’re not getting a high-average output from Bruce; you are getting hard liners and short-porch bombs.

Bruce will be entering Spring Training without any sort of role assured, but he could easily snag a fifth outfielder spot currently manned by Greg Allen. Truthfully, we should’ve seen this coming. The Yankees absolutely need both power and outfield depth, and they shrugged off one-year, $3 million-ish deals for the versatile Marwin Gonzalez (Red Sox) and Brad Miller (Phillies) this week. Too rich for their blood. Got it.

Bruce is a choice, but at least he’s a known quantity. And if he’s willing to spend time in Scranton, all the more valuable for a Yankees team that might be showing the expensive Gardner the door.