There remains a chance Brett Gardner returns to the Yankees despite GM Brian Cashman already bringing in new depth reinforcements for the outfield this season.
According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the price to do so is “likely around $3 million,” considering the team wants to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $210 million. And there’s mutual interest on both sides to get something done that would keep Gardner’s status as the longest-tenured Yankee in the clubhouse.
Heyman added that Gardner would prefer to return to the Bronx but will venture outside if he’s forced to do so.
If he does return on a new deal, Gardner would likely be a bench player with Aaron Boone saying Clint Frazier is the team’s starting left fielder – at least heading into spring training. Frazier has earned the role in his eyes after a solid 2020 campaign that had him featured in left and right field due to injuries throughout the season.
Gardner is still a valuable asset no matter his status on the team. His leadership in the clubhouse is undeniable, and he can still get on base (.354 OBP in 49 games last season). His average took a pretty big dip in the games he played last season — .223 compared to .251 in 2019 – but he puts together good at-bats and can generate some pop with it from time to time.
And of course, his defense in the outfield is reliable. His arm strength isn’t comparable to Frazier’s, but with injuries especially hurting this group in recent seasons, veteran depth that Boone is comfortable moving around to fill the void doesn’t hurt.
Greg Allen, Derek Dietrich, Jay Bruce and Mike Tauchman are all battling for reserve spots in the outfield during spring training as well.