Via Bob Klapisch –
Remember all that off-season chatter about Brett Gardner being traded, especially after the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury as a free agent? You can forget the subject was ever raised, as Gardner agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $52 million Sunday.
Even though he wasn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season, the Yankees had no intention of letting Gardner slip away, giving him a huge raise over the $5.6 million he’s earning in 2014.
“The numbers worked out for both sides,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Brett is tough, and has really developed into a solid, everyday major league player.”
Gardner’s willingness to forego free agency might’ve seemed odd considering how much outfielders are currently earning, including Ellsbury’s $153 million, seven-year deal. But as much as Gardner was “intrigued” by possibly testing his value on the open market, he also said he was “scared” of free agency.
That, along with his desire to begin and end his career with one team, moved along negotiations that began a few weeks ago and ended with Sunday’s announcement.
Where Gardner fits in 2014 largely depends on several other factors, including how many times Derek Jeter is used in the DH spot. If the captain is healthy, Gardner will be in left field every day, especially at home where he and Ellsbury, with their speed, will be especially suited for the Stadium’s vast dimensions in left-center. But if Jeter can’t play more than 120 games at short, and instead needs to increase his DH at-bats, the Yankees might be forced to use Alfonso Soriano in left more than they’d like. The Bombers would like to use Soriano as the primary DH and limit his exposure to right field, where he has never played.
For now, however, Gardner is happy with the deal and happy to be staying put. “Where I come from [Holly Hill, S.C.], this is a lot of money,” he said.
That’s a lot of money for a guy whose lifetime OPS+ is 97 (in 2,228 big league PA). Of course, yes, that’s just the bat and you have to include Gardner’s glove into the equation as well.
To me, Gardner is a lot like Lance Johnson. And, it would not shock me to see him have good seasons for the next four years – in terms of being a league average hitter with speed who plays very good defense.
I’m not saying he will do that…just that he might/could do it.
Time will tell…
Also: What does this say for the state (and future) of Yankees outfield prospects, now that the Yankees have two runners locked up long term – and that Beltran will be around, contractually, for a while?