On a scale of “comfortable” to “dicey,” Gardner’s Bronx return was slightly more up in the air than DJ LeMahieu’s, but at the same time, it was always hard to envision him playing elsewhere to wrap up his career.
That doesn’t mean the man himself didn’t try to envision it, though.
Didn’t go well, but he at least entertained the thought.
A few days after arriving to Yankees spring training ahead of his 14th season in pinstripes, Gardner opened up to the assembled beat writers about this offseason’s journey.
For the first time publicly, Gardy admitted that he had a bit of frustration with the protracted free agency process, and might’ve ended up elsewhere if the Yanks hadn’t relented.
Hey, no hard feelings on our end, either. We completely understand why being a baseball player closer to the end of the rope than the beginning was a frustrating process during the 2020-21 offseason.
So was being a young baseball player. So was being an in-his-prime baseball player. The vibes are bad.
Did Brett Gardner really consider leaving the Yankees in 2021?
According to Gardner, he was “somewhat open” to playing elsewhere next season if the type of talks he’d been waiting on hadn’t materialized.
Luckily for the veteran leader, both Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone spoke of his potential arrival during an otherwise dormant offseason, making conversations seem like a fait accompli. But as spring training approached without an inked contract, the rest of the baseball world started mocking Gardner to sites like St. Louis and Seattle, and comparing him favorably with players like Joc Pederson and Kyle Schwarber who’d signed $7-10 million deals, well out of the Yankees’ price range.
If Gardner was going to seek that money, he’d have to do so wearing a different cap. Luckily, the Yankees found a way to appraise him fairly but within their budgetary constrictions.
That allowed him to get to camp and quickly shoot a retort Aaron Judge’s way. The 6-7 slugger referred to Gardner as “5-6, 150 pounds” in his introductory press conference this winter, and Gardy responded by accusing Judge of failing to reach his ceiling.
Based on the diminutive Gardner’s shockingly potent power output, we’re inclined to agree with him.
And Gardner’s more durable, too. We don’t want to know what a 6-7 Gardner looks like. Perhaps it’d be more dangerous for him to throw his body around after going through such a makeover.
All things considered, we’re glad we got the normal-sized Gardy locked down for a final season or two, with fans in place.