Since their early playoff exit in the ALDS, the New York Yankees have officially turned their attention to the 2019 season. But before Brian Cashman can make his under the radar trades and free agent signings, there’s one thing he has to address:
He has to decide what to do with Brett Gardner and his $12.5 Million option.
Gardner has been with the organization since 2005, but his future with the club is uncertain. With Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Clint Frazier, and Jacoby Ellsbury as outfield options, it appears there might not be room for the 35-year-old veteran. However, Gardner brings more than just his on the field talent to the table. As one of the remaining players from the 2009 World Series Championship team, he’s been the veteran presence that is needed on a young ball club. He’s well respected among his peers, and despite his offensive struggles in 2018, his defense hasn’t missed a beat.
The Yankees have until Wednesday to decide what direction they want to go in regarding their longest tenured player. So, what are the Yankees options?
OPTION 1: pick up Gardner’s option
This option is pretty self-explanatory. The Yankees could pick up Gardner’s $12.5 Million option for the 2019 season and call it at that. But with his skills slowly declining and with his days as a starter potentially coming to an end, does the team actually value him at $12.5 Million?
OPTION 2: Decline Gardner’s option–but re-sign him on a cheaper deal
If the Yankees don’t value Gardner at $12.5 Million, they could decline his option. But it wouldn’t necessarily be the end of his tenure in pinstripes. Instead of paying Gardner $12.5 Million to potentially become a fourth outfielder, the team could renegotiate a new short-term contract with a smaller salary for Gardner. As long as Gardner wants to stay in New York in a diminished role, the deal could be a win-win for both sides; Gardner could continue his veteran role with the organization, and the Yankees could use the extra money from his option on another free agent.
OPTION 3: Decline Gardner’s option–and let him go
Let’s face it, the Yankees outfield is extremely crowded. As tough as it is to accept, Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t going anywhere. The team is getting younger, and frankly Gardner is getting older. The Yankees love what Gardner brings to the table, and they appreciate everything he’s done for the organization. But unfortunately, baseball is a business. The Yankees might find a cheaper option on the free agent market, or they could sign a luxury outfield bat. If that’s the case, the Yankees would most likely decline the option and let Gardner find another opportunity elsewhere. It would be hard to let go of the player that filled the veteran role when Derek Jeter retired, but sometimes all good things come to an end.
Gardner has vocally expressed his desire to play with the Yankees for his entire career, and he has no interest in retiring. So from now until Wednesday, all eyes will be on the Yankees to decide whether Gardner stays with the organization or if the ‘Brett Gardner era’ in the Bronx is over.