In the weeks immediately preceding the resumption of the 2022 MLB offseason, eternal Yankees center field option Brett Gardner signaled he was looking to play at least one more year. Naturally, his preference was to play it in New York, just as he had in the previous 14 seasons of his MLB tenure.
Do the Yankees have the same preference? It remains unclear. In the first 24 hours of official Spring Training, Aaron Boone has deflected Gardner questions, stating the team would eye his potential return, but “there are so many other things going on right now.”
Unrelated, but speedy outfielder Tim Locastro, out of Syracuse, NY, showed up at camp with the rest of the rostered Yankees on Sunday despite being, uh, not on the roster.
So, it’s a minor-league deal for a player the Yankees acquired in 2021, utilized for nine games, then watched tear his ACL banging into the left-field wall at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. Got it. No big deal. Another helpful NRI.
Except the Yankees announced the Locastro deal on Sunday as a Major League contract. Doesn’t that … change things for Gardy just a bit?
Yankees sign Tim Locastro; Brett Gardner gone?
There aren’t many available spots on the Yankees bench. We’re also not positive Gardner is the best use of New York’s resources, considering he might provide Locastro-level production at an inflated pay grade.
That said … there’s no area where the Yankees could use more depth than in center field, considering Aaron Hicks cannot be counted on after missing nearly the full 2021 campaign with a wrist sheath issue — after undergoing Tommy John surgery after 2019. Maybe the Yanks would be willing to embrace both Gardner and Locastro, expanding the bench by one at a trouble spot.
It all boils down, though, to both Gardy and Locastro being steps in the right direction, but not enough to entrust an outfield spot to in the event that Hicks goes down. Locastro’s one tool is speed. He was caught three times in eight stolen base attempts last season. He’s likely hit his offensive ceiling, and outside of a ridiculously effective 33 games in 2020 (133 OPS+), there’s not much to work with there, either.
If you believe Yankees insider Brendan Kuty, Gardner’s return still can’t be counted out, either.
And why wouldn’t you believe him? Nothing the Yankees have ever done has precluded them from re-upping with Gardner, after all.
We anticipated Locastro would only earn a minor-league flyer, though, and that’s surprisingly not the case. Changes the calculus at least one notch.