In a bit of a surprise move by the Yankees, they locked up their homegrown outfielder, Brett Gardner, to a four-year, $52 million contract earlier today.
This seemed to come out of nowhere, and the amount of the contract took me by surprise. Curtis Granderson left the Yankees for the cross-town rival Mets, for four-years, $60 million. I was surprised to see Gardner getting Granderson-type money, especially since Granderson has had a much more celebrated career up to this point.
Gardner is a solid player in a changing game. As the game moves away from the bulked up, power hitting culture that was driven by performance enhancing drugs over the past two decades, players like Gardner could be a look at the future. Gardner will hit more triples than homeruns and will play outstanding defense and create runs with his speed. He’s a bit of a throwback player.
In addition to being a throwback player, Gardner is also one of the few remaining homegrown players on the Yankees. At the moment, he may be one of three that are in the starting lineup on opening day, and may be the eldest after Derek Jeter retires at the end of this season.
Even still, was $52 million an over-pay by the Yankees in order to prevent Gardner from testing out free agency?
The Yankees had some outfield prospects that have not panned out up to this point with Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin. The Gardner signing sends a message that the Yankees don’t see them being ready to help the big league club for the forseeable future (at least not in a starting capacity). If any of those prospects had been close to ready, the Yankees may have been more likely to let Gardner test the market. The Yankees now avoid having to go shopping in the free agent market for an outfielder this winter—they now have their outfield of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Gardner in place for the next three seasons.
Sounds like a win-win for the Yankees. As long as their outfielders can stay healthy, they are pretty much covered for the next three years.