Yankees Pull Out All The Stops In Bizarre Brett Gardner Contract

Brett Gardner - A Player's Player

The Yankees and Brett Gardner have reached a deal for 2021. A peek into the contract, however, reveals some bizarre details…

The Yankees have always loved Brett Gardner. But when faced with an aging outfielder whose game is built on speed, the last few seasons have been touch and go in determining a place on the roster for Gardner.

Yankees Brett Gardner takes out Max Muncy (Photo: Kevin Kuo AP)
Yankees Brett Gardner takes out Max Muncy (Photo: Kevin Kuo AP)

Each year, the beat among Yankees fans has helped drive the Yankees to re-sign Gardner, albeit for successive one-year contracts at a significantly reduced price.

Gardner spoke last season about wanting to finish out his career with fans, friends, and family in the stands at Yankee Stadium, something he didn’t get in the 2020 “fanless” season.

Yankees And Gardner Never A Sure Thing

But with the Yankees committed to keeping their team payroll under the luxury tax limit, together with Aaron Boone having already named Clint Frazier to Gardner’s starting left-field spot (video below), it became a matter for Brian Cashman to find a way to support the will.

The Yankees GM did just that, exercising all the creativity he could amass to develop a deal that is likely to keep Brett Gardner in the Yankee pinstripes for not one, but probably two years.

According to Spotrac, Brett Gardner signed a 2 year / $5,150,000 contract with the New York Yankees, including a $1,000,000 signing bonus, $5,150,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $2,575,000.

In 2021, Gardner will earn a base salary of $1,850,000 and a signing bonus of $1,000,000 while carrying a total salary of $2,850,000.

Yankees: No Need To Let The Buyer Beware

The kicker, however, comes with this agreed to caveat:

  • If 2022 player option is declined, it converts to a $7.15M club option ($1.15M buyout)”

The impact of the deal, also according to Spotrac, leaves the Yankees with a cushion of almost $6 million before exceeding the $210 million limit, a sum that Brian Cashman will value to the utmost once the season gets underway, closer to the trade deadline when a single addition to the team can make all the difference.

Nick Swisher, Old Timer's Day, Yankee Stadium 2018 Photo Credit: NJ.com
Nick Swisher, Old Timer’s Day, Yankee Stadium 2018 Photo Credit: NJ.com

Of course, the surprise twist in the deal is the option afforded to Gardner by the Yankees for the 2022 season. Even if you consider the financial advantage assumed by the Yankees and the luxury tax, the clause also reveals their faith in Gardner as a person and player.

Unlike, for instance, Nick Swisher, whose last days in uniform were relegated to an ill-advised last-gasp try in the minor leagues, Brett Gardner does not give the appearance of needing to have his uniform torn off his back if his performance this year can’t justify another season.

Oh, Those All-Important Intangibles

For the Yankees, retaining Gardner has always been a no-brainer, especially when those all-important intangibles he brings to his game are considered.

Occupying the corner locker in the Yankees clubhouse, a spot most recently inhabited by Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia, every player entering passes by Gardner, receiving a simple “let’s go get ’em” or maybe a well-deserved kick in the butt for not hustling the night before.

As we know, players age differently. A player might easily get complacent on a poor team, deciding to ride the string out, so those pension checks are increased by longevity.

Some see their body give into the storm of abuse over the years, rehabbing from injuries and occasionally from self-inflicted torment via alcohol or drugs.

Brett Gardner, however, has always kept himself in shape. First on the field and last off during practices is his trademark – and it’s not something he invented to stand out. It’s just something he does.

Yankees: Maybe It’s A Term-Life Policy – But Maybe Not

All of which points to the Yankees having once-again signed the best insurance policy for the team money can buy.

Yankees Clint Frazier - Gold Glove Finalist (Bronx Pinstripes)
Yankees Clint Frazier – Gold Glove Finalist (Bronx Pinstripes)

Gardner “gets” that Clint Frazier’s time has come, and unlike two years ago when Frazier stormed into camp claiming he was going to steal Gardner’s job, Frazier has grown up, moving swiftly to Gardner’s side to learn all he can while he can.

As one of the few left-handed batters in the Yankees, Brett Gardner will always be ready to assume a greater role at the behest of Aaron Boone, similar to one he excelled at in 2019 when the entire Yankees outfield (Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks) succumbed to injury at one time or another.

That year, Gardner smashed 28 home runs, driving in 74 runs in 141 games and 550 at-bats. Not bad for someone who was supposed to be a fourth outfielder.

Yankees: Relax, Brett Gardner Will Not Disappoint

So once again, the deed is done. Brett Gardner will turn 38 as a New York Yankee this season, and if all goes well, he will walk away as one of the few players who can claim (these days) to have played his entire career with one team.

As part of their player profile, Baseball-Reference has this add-on to project the season individual players will have. Here’s how Brett Gardner looks for 2021…

Brett Gardner's Projected Stats 2021
Brett Gardner’s Projected Stats 2021

Is there anyone who wouldn’t take that – without even counting the intangibles?


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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.