Jan. 11, 2020: The Yankees have officially announced Gardner’s signing to a one-year deal plus a club option for 2021. The team also announced Stephen Tarpley has been designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Tarpley, 26, seems to have lost his spot on the Yankees now that the three-batter rule has come into effect for 2020. The southpaw put up a 6.93 ERA (5.69 FIP) in 24⅔ innings for New York. His 12.41 strikeouts per nine is a tantalizing look at his potential, but a 5.47 walks per nine, 2.19 homers per nine and 1.237 OPS allowed to right-handed hitters doomed his future as a member of the Bombers.
Dec. 12, 2019: In what seemed to be the most obvious fit since free agency began, the Yankees have agreed to re-sign veteran outfielder Brett Gardner to a one-year, $10 million contract. The deal contains a $10 million club option for 2021, or a $2.5 million buyout. His luxury tax hit for the 2020 season is $12.5 million because his 2021 buyout is counted towards the 2020 payroll.
Gardner was a third-round pick of the Yankees in the 2005 draft, and has become synonymous with the pinstripes since his debut in 2008. He remains the longest tenured Yankee. Most fans were skeptical of Gardner’s return in 2019, but he rewarded the front office’s faith to the tune of a .251/.325/.503 (115 wRC+) and a career-high 28 home runs.
Gardner unexpectedly got a massive amount of playing time in 2019, appearing in 141 games. The injury bug hit the team hard — especially in the outfield. Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton each suffered injuries that played a role in Gardner’s enhanced role.
Gardner also demonstrated he can still handle center field on an everyday basis, which will prove important given that Hicks will miss at least half of 2019 with his recovery from elbow surgery. Some combination of Gardner, Stanton and Mike Tauchman will be responsible for patrolling left field once Hicks is fully recovered.
On the field stats aside, the Yankees were able to retain an important clubhouse figure. Gardner’s leadership will be incredibly valuable given the departures of Didi Gregorius and Austin Romine to other teams and the retirement of CC Sabathia.
The Yankees are counting on Brett Gardner once again to be a significant part of their outfield puzzle in 2020, and last season’s performance shows he should be up to the task.