The 37-year-old Gardner is a career-long Yankee who began in 2008 and who remained productive last season, but the team declined his $10MM option for a $2.5MM buyout at the end of October. The move did not come as a surprise when considering Gardner’s age and the crowded outfield picture in New York, which boasts Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier as starters and Mike Tauchman as a backup. The Yankees added further outfield depth when they acquired Greg Allen in an early January trade with the Padres. Allen’s production pales in comparison to Gardner’s, but for at least the time being, Allen is on the Yankees’ 40-man roster.
Gardner is coming off a year in which he registered a a career-worst .223 batting average, but he still finished with a solid 110 wRC+ (his career mark is 104) in 158 plate appearances on the strength of a .354 on-base percentage and a .392 slugging percentage. He drew walks at a personal-high 16.5 percent rate, hit five home runs, stole three bases and added double-digit appearances in left and center, where he combined for one Defensive Run Saved and a 1.1 Ultimate Zone Rating.
While it appears the respected Gardner still has more to offer, whether as a Yankee or with another team, it’s unknown whether he’d want to continue his career anywhere but the Bronx. Gardner ranks third all-time among Yankees in steals (270), 16th in games played (1,548), 17th in position player bWAR (43.0), 19th in runs scored (896) and 27th in hits (1,384), to name just some key categories.