Gardner back with Yanks on 1-year deal

February 23rd, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- , the last remaining link to the Yankees’ most recent World Series championship team, is keeping his pinstripes.

The Yankees reunited with their longest-tenured player, agreeing to terms on Tuesday on a one-year contract with a player option for 2022; if the player option is declined, there is a club option. The deal is worth at least $4 million, a source told's Mark Feinsand.

To make room on the 40-man roster, right-hander Luis Severino was placed on the 60-day injured list. 

“There is a blue-collar way that he goes about his business. I think that’s infectious,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said on Saturday. “There’s a little bit of a chip on his shoulder that he plays with. He’s got a young man’s body; he’s in great shape. I think you’ve seen him adapt and apply information to continue to make himself a better player.”

Gardner projects to serve in a reserve role in New York's outfield, with Boone having said this week that he views Clint Frazier as the starter in left field. Aaron Hicks is in line to start in center and Aaron Judge in right, with Giancarlo Stanton expected to serve as the regular designated hitter.

“I expect Clint to be our left fielder and to be in that starting lineup,” Boone said. “If we were to bring in a guy like Gardy, it’s a guy that would play a lot, as will a lot of our guys that will be bench players. But Clint is going to be a regular player for us going into the season.”

That arrangement should work for the 37-year-old Gardner, who is strongly valued by the Yankees for his clubhouse presence and leadership. Represented by agent Joe Bick, Gardner gauged interest from other clubs, but he left little secret about his desire to complete his career with the Yanks.

“I definitely don’t want my last games to be played in front of no fans,” Gardner said in September. “I would love my family to have the chance to see me play again.”

Gardner batted .223/.354/.392 (108 OPS+) in 49 games for New York last season, with five home runs and 15 RBIs. He played in six of the club’s seven postseason games, having supplanted Frazier in the lineup on the strength of a strong finish to his regular season.

“Gardy has always been one of my favorite teammates,” catcher Kyle Higashioka said. “I think the leadership and the experience that he provides is going to be really vital to us. Guys like that are such a great role model for guys coming up. He's just the ultimate professional; he plays really hard, works really hard off the field. He sets a great example for guys coming up.”

Apparently intent upon staying under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, the Yankees traded right-hander Adam Ottavino and Minor League right-hander Frank German to the Red Sox in January in exchange for cash considerations. That move freed about $8 million, funds that were effectively distributed among three players -- right-hander Darren O’Day, left-hander Justin Wilson and now Gardner.

Other Yankees who could be impacted by Gardner’s return include the versatile left-handed-hitting Mike Tauchman and veteran lefty slugger Jay Bruce, who is expected to be in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Tauchman is on the 40-man roster, while Greg Allen was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Wilson.

Selected by the Yankees in the third round of the 2005 MLB Draft, Gardner made his Major League debut in '08 and owns a ring from the Bombers’ 2009 World Series championship. A 2015 All-Star and a '16 Gold Glove Award winner, Gardner owns a career .259/.343/.401 slash line with 129 homers and 539 RBIs in 1,548 games over 13 seasons with New York.

“He’s a guy that we know we’re going to get elite defense from,” Boone said. “As we've been a little bit more of a right-handed-dominant team, he's been a nice break in the lineup for us. He's been a guy that has given us a little bit of balance, which we like.”