There’s risk and comfort that comes with each side of a contract extension, and today the Yankees and Brett Gardner took on a little of both with a four-year, $52 million contract.
Gardner can look at the four-year, $48 million deal signed by Michael Bourn last winter and have a pretty solid point of comparison. With a good year, Gardner might have earned more on the open market. With a bad year, he might have earned less.
“It’s probably the biggest decision I ever had to make in my life,” Gardner said. “I put a lot of thought into it, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot of money. Where I come from, that money or twice that much money, I’m not going to change the way I live my life. Maybe I can help more people with it, with a little more money, but I just look forward to coming out and working hard every day, playing hard, and continuing to do the things I’ve been doing.”
The Yankees can point to a home-grown player who’s been one of the few successful position players produced in recent years. He’s not a typical corner outfielder, and he’s had injury trouble, but he also brings speed, defense, on-base ability and outfield security going forward.
“Once you get into free agency, all bets are off,” Brian Cashman said. “This winter, we needed to make things happen to reset some things for us, and it cost a lot of money. Other clubs operate the same way, that’s why in free agency, you can get crushed. If he has another Gardy-type capability year, my interest would have still have been to keep him, but it might have been harder to do so.”
Ultimately, it’s about stability for both sides. Gardner wanted to stay in New York. The Yankees wanted to have another outfielder in place going forward.
“Free agency is something that, it kind of intrigued me, but it also kind of scared me,” Gardner said. “I’ve never been anywhere else. I got drafted here almost nine years ago, and I love it here. … It’s meaningful being able to play for New York, and hopefully one day I can retire and say that I didn’t play for another team. I think that would be awesome.”
Said Cashman: “He’s made himself into something very special. … I remember Gary Denbo in the Florida State League was like, ‘This guy is going to play center field for the Yankees one day.’ I also remember hearing scouts outside the organization say, ‘That guy will never play center field in New York.’ To some degree because of other signings, he hasn’t had a chance to play center as much as he would have, but he’s made himself into a tremendous major-league player and he’s got a mental toughness that we love. He’s been a great teammate and we look forward to him performing and being all that he’s been the last few years for us going forward.”