SAN DIEGO -- On several occasions over the past few years, Brett Gardner had been deep in conversations with former teammates when the longest-tenured Yankee would express some curiosity about how opposing teams conducted business behind closed doors. Invariably, Gardner said the response from those players always seemed to be: "You wouldn't like it here."
As such, Gardner has said that he hopes to play his entire career in Yankees pinstripes, a marriage that has proved fruitful for both sides. That will continue in 2020, as Gardner and the Yankees agreed on a one-year, $12.5 million deal with a club option for '21, according to a source. The signing is not yet official, pending a physical.
"The constant that he is means a lot to the organization, as well as the production on the field," said assistant general manager Michael Fishman. "He's coming off one of his best seasons, not just in the additional power he had last year but the continued excellent defense that he's displayed throughout his career. He's a big part of our team."
The 36-year-old Gardner will receive a raise over the $9.5 million that he earned in 2019, when he set career highs in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage. According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Gardner receives a $2 million signing bonus and will be paid an $8 million salary for '20. New York holds a $10 million option for the '21 season, with a $2.5 million buyout.
Gardner, who made his Major League debut in June 2008, projects to begin the season as the Yankees' Opening Day center fielder. He should see regular duty at that position, as Aaron Hicks is not expected to return until at least June after undergoing Tommy John surgery following the American League Championship Series.
"We've known how good Gardner has been for a long time," general manager Brian Cashman said recently. "We've been real excited by the selection [director of amateur scouting] Damon Oppenheimer made back in the day and how [Gardner has] developed and performed ever since. He's been a great Yankee."
Gardner batted .251/.325/.503 with 86 runs, 28 homers and 74 RBIs in 141 games last year, seeing 61 of his 123 hits go for extra bases. He hit more homers than doubles (26) for the first time in his career.
"He always works hard to stay at the top of his game," Fishman said. "We've been fortunate to be able to give him and some others days off with some of the depth on the roster. Part of the plan was trying to keep everybody strong for the end of the year for the postseason, and he really had a good season throughout, top to bottom."
The move to retain Gardner concludes an eventful Winter Meetings for the Yankees, who sent shockwaves through the lobby at the Manchester Grand Hyatt late on Tuesday by landing what Cashman called their "great white whale" in Gerrit Cole, securing the right-hander with a record-setting nine-year, $324 million pact.