Despite a career year in 2019 and second-half surges in 2020 and 2021, New York Yankees free agent outfielder Brett Gardner might be nearing the end of the road.
Once again, during a season in which Gardy was supposed to be the fourth outfielder getting limited reps and coming in as a defensive replacement, the veteran saw the field for 140 games after Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar fell flat on their faces and Aaron Hicks went down for the year with an injury.
Then came the acquisition of Joey Gallo, and Gardner was still logging meaningful innings. We can cut and splice his season however we want to make it look as good or as bad as possible, but the end result being a .222 average and .689 OPS just isn’t enough for someone who constantly finds playing time when it shouldn’t be there.
The moral of the story is that the Yankees will always find themselves short-handed somewhere. It’s the nature of the beast these last five years thanks to the persistent injury bug. And if 2021 told us anything, it’s that this team’s depth needs to be better. When you’re getting jolts of energy from Triple-A guys, it’s clear your roster construction isn’t where it needs to be.
So, now we must ask, with the buzz surrounding guys like Seiya Suzuki and other trade targets, if the Yankees find a way to bolster their outfield and deem Gardner unnecessary, will the 38-year-old retire?
He’s never played for another franchise and reports have indicated he wants to return in 2022. But what if that’s not in the cards for him?
Will Brett Gardner retire if the Yankees don’t re-sign him?
Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com had Gardner on his list of players who may have stepped foot on the field for the last time, and it’s worth pondering. The Yankees rejected Gardner’s team option and he declined the lesser player option, which made him a free agent, and now there’s been more speculation about rebuilding the outfield.
In fact, while most of us joke that Gardner will be back in late February, this offseason has perhaps resulted in fans writing him off more than ever. When you’re thinking about the 2022 roster, does Gardner even cross your mind as the last guy on the bench?
Throw in the fact Gardner has been wildly misused the past three seasons or so, and the Yankees might be better off parting ways. One of his claims to fame is his speed, yet he’s stolen just 17 bases across his last 330 games. He was batting third more times than anybody could stomach in 2021. This isn’t what it’s supposed to be.
Gardner is very much a Yankees legend and he may want to keep it that way. We’ve almost never heard of a rumor connecting Gardner anywhere else even though he’s hit free agency multiple times throughout his career. It’s always been a foregone conclusion he’d be returning to the Bronx.
But if that opportunity isn’t there in 2022? Don’t be shocked if he calls it quits. The Yankees actually might have a coaching/front office job lined up for him if that’s what ends up happening anyway.