The New York Yankees agreed to terms with Brett Gardner on a one-year deal worth $7.5 million for 2019 on Wednesday.
Oct. 31 was the deadline to decide what to do about the team option on Gardy’s contract. The Yankees had two options:
- Pick up the team option: Brett Gardner earns $12.5 million for the 2019 season
- Decline the team option: Brett Gardner receives a $2 million buyout and becomes a free agent
The Yankees opted for the latter but immediately re-signed Gardner to the aforementioned $7.5 million deal. As I understand it, the move saves the Yankees $3 million real-life dollars, but $5 million for luxury-tax purposes in 2019. The $2 million buyout is spread across the rest of Gardner’s previous contract, 2015-18.
I don’t care about saving the Steinbrenners and literal dollars, but creating more room under the luxury tax threshold will likely prove important moving forward.
Gardner proved this year that he can’t really be trusted to be a full-time starter over the course of a full season anymore. He hit .236/.322/.368 (90 wRC+) on the season, overall, but his second half was torturous, dropping from a 106 wRC+ in the first half to a much less acceptable 66 wRC+ in the second half. He also, unfortunately, proved that he really shouldn’t get at-bats against left-handed pitching anymore.
He is still absolutely a leader in the clubhouse and I love him. I’m glad to have him back as the fourth outfielder on this team. Does this stop them from going out and signing a better option like Bryce Harper? Absolutely not. Gardner is a great fourth outfielder/pinch-running /defensive substitution option, but the Yankees know the game plan cannot be him as the everyday outfielder next season.
I’d love to be able to platoon him with Clint Frazier or for Clint Frazier to be given the job outright with Gardy as the extra guy, assuming they don’t sign an other-worldly talent like Harper, but that cannot be the game plan entering spring training. Unfortunately, with Frazier’s health issues last year- the last two years, really- I don’t see how you can trust him to stay healthy enough for him to be Plan A in 2019.
Could Andrew McCutchen come back to the Bronx? I doubt it, personally. It always seemed like an either-or situation between him and Gardner this offseason. Cutch could probably go get a bigger contract with a bigger role than the Yankees would be willing to give him. Winning is important to him, but how important is winning to him this year? This might be the last year he can earn a fairly high annual value on a contract. He played well enough to earn such a thing over the course of a full season. The Yankees won’t give him that, though. I think McCutchen is gone.
This was the first major decision that the Yanks had to make this offseason. I’m happy with how it turned out, but feel free to tweet at me and tell me why I’m a moron for liking Brett Gardner.