For the last two to three seasons, Gardner has been a lingering free-agent. After the 2019 season, the team signed Gardy to a one-year deal with a club option for the 2020 season. After the 2020 season, the Yankees declined Gardner’s $10M option for the 2021 season.
Ever since the club’s opt-out, Gardner has been waiting for a contract with another team. There have been rumblings about the Yankees being interested in signing him back. However, none of the rumors have come to fruition yet.
The real question is: Should the Yankees bring back Brett Gardner?
From 2008 on, Brett Gardner rode with the wild horses of the New York Yankees outfield. After all, Gardner shared the outfield with Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera in 2009, when the Yankees won their 27th World Series ring.
After Damon left in free agency the next season, Gardner took the left-field spot. Curtis Granderson and Swisher started in center field and right field that year next to Gardner. His fielding was not the only positive attribute, but his speed on the bases was noticed as well, as he led the team in stolen bases with 47 in 2010.
With Derek Jeter on and off the disabled list in 2011, Gardner started the season in the leadoff spot. Gardner played a season-high 159 games that season rotating in all outfield positions. He tied with Coco Crisp for the American League lead on stolen bases (49).
Brett Gardner missed most of the 2012 season with an elbow injury. Luckily with most of the squad getting injured the next season, Gardy did not miss out on his starting spot in center field. He played 145 games in 2013.
His career brightened up even more in the years that came. Gardner earned a four-year contract extension worth $52M in 2014. He strengthened his power, while his speed, unfortunately, started declining.
Despite the flip-flop on offensive production, Gardner made the All-Star team the next year. He also won the Gold Glove Award for left fielders the next year (2016).
Ever since 2016, the Yankees’ outfield started to become crowded. Though the team traded Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers and Ben Gamel to the Seattle Mariners, this gave room for Baby Bombers like Tyler Austin, Aaron Judge, and Clint Frazier to compete for outfield spots of the future, making Gardner’s job harder to play for eventually. Before acquiring some younger players for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees traded for Aaron Hicks.
With Brett Gardner being 37, the Yankees could go with younger options in a crowded outfield.
With better defense and the same firepower, Clint Frazier can rightfully earn the starting left field spot.
Besides Giancarlo Stanton playing designated hitter and Aaron Judge starting in right with Aaron Hicks in left field, the Yankees have Estevan Florial, Mike Tauchman, and Greg Allen as the competing reserve outfielders.
The team has an unproven but young prospect in Florial. They traded for Allen in a deal with the San Diego Padres during the offseason.
The only reasonable way for the Yankees to bring back Gardner is at their price, so likely between $3M-5M a year. He needs to realize at this point in his career the best opportunity he will have is being a backup outfielder.
With a better speed option in Allen and an up-and-coming prospect in Florial, the Yankees have to leave Gardner in the past and move forward with the future.