Yes, the New York Yankees still want to bring back Brett Gardner for 2021. That much should’ve been obvious when Aaron Boone smirked at the question in his first Spring Training press conference on Wednesday.
They will only do so, however, at their price.
Which brings us to the fairest question of the cycle thus far: why is their price still so misaligned with Gardner’s perceived value?
Because we’re getting down to the wire here, and Jon Heyman’s latest report indicates the value at which the Yankees have appraised Gardner seems pretty fair.
According to Heyman, the Yankees are prepared to bring Gardner back at $3 million, which would keep them both under the luxury tax and with a bit of midseason wiggle room to spare.
Add that cash to the $2.5 million buyout of his option which the 37-year-old already received, and he’s definitely approaching the payday of, say, the much younger but less effective Adam Eaton or the more powerful Joc Pederson.
Though we still don’t have Justin Wilson’s contract totals reported — and the Yankees will probably move Luis Severino to the 60-Day IL to make that move official shortly — rumors abounded that the financials would be creative. As they’ve been on every 2020-21 contract.
Wilson is expected to land a multi-year deal with around $3 million to his name this year, too. Add in Gardner’s $3 million, and the team still has between $3 and $4 additional million to lure a pre-arb player at the deadline. Doable!
Will Brett Gardner return to the Yankees for $3 million?
If Gardner prefers to return and the Yankees prefer to keep him at $3 million — once again, far from a disrespectful total given the $2.5 million they already paid him — it seems only natural the two sides would meet.
Maybe both parties will wait for Spring Training injuries to shake things up? Maybe neither feels the need to be proactive? That would seem to be a mistake in an effort to maximize Gardner’s on-field value, though, especially after he took a month of regular season action to find his footing last year in a season unlike any other.
At this point, every lefty on the bench is a wild card. The Yankees are hoping for a comeback year from Mike Tauchman or Mike Ford. They’re eyeing Jay Bruce’s spring work, but can’t use three weeks of at-bats as gospel.
Gardner is the most known quantity by far in the bunch, and his arrival could even result in the redundant Tauchman being moved, especially with a three-man bench in consideration.
In recent days, 32-year-old Marwin Gonzalez accepted a similar $3 million deal. 31-year-old lefty slugger Brad Miller re-upped for $3.5 million with the Phillies. 35-year-old Mitch Moreland got $2.25 million in Oakland on Thursday morning.
Similar, younger bats are coming off the board at a lower rate than what Gardner’s current offer would pay him, when you combine the $3 million salary and $2.5 million fee into one proto-contract.
$1 million or $1.5 million would’ve been a bit disrespectful from the Yankees’ end, given the market. But at $3 million, there’s no reason not to make this work.