The New York Yankees’ 2018-19 off-season has started early, with the team announcing that they have re-signed veteran outfielder Brett Gardner. Gardner is returning to the Bronx, on a one-year, $7.5-million deal. The Yankees held a $12.5-million team option on Gardner’s deal, which they declined, instead opting to exercise a $2.5-million buyout, and re-sign him.
The fan favorite left fielder made his Major League debut with New York in June of 2008, and has been in pinstripes ever since. Many in the industry believed that Gardner may have played his last game in New York, after struggling this past season. Gardner slashed .236/.322/.368 with a 2.8 WAR and 12 home runs in 140 games last season, and was benched for August 31 acquisition Andrew McCutchen for the majority of the second half and the postseason.
While he struggled at the plate, Gardner once-again played stellar defense in left. Gardner was sixth out of all left fielders in baseball with eight defensive-runs-saved. His defense was good enough to earn him a nod as a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award for left fielders.
Signing the 35-year-old, does not take the Yankees out of the running for other free agent left fielders like Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, or Marwin Gonzalez. Gardner’s role on the Yankees despite the pretty high price tag, could be as a fourth outfielder and a good leader on a young team.
The need for outfield depth was alarming last season for the Bombers. After star right fielder Aaron Judge went down with a wrist injury, a lack of backup outfielders caused Shane Robinson, a 34-year-old with a career .221 batting average, to have to play 25 games in one of the most important stretches of the season. Having Gardner, even as a guy to just play once or twice a week, is not the worst idea for the Yankees.
Gardner going off of the board shouldn’t have too big of an effect on the rest of free agency, with a plethora of outfielders available. Gardner may set a minimum salary for other struggling veterans like Denard Span, Colby Rasmus, and Matt Joyce.
Gardner represents the first move of a highly anticipated Yankees’ offseason. Will Harper be next? Manny Machado? November has just begun, but the hot stove is already in full force.