Another day, another extension. Today’s goes to New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who was in his final year of arbitration. Instead of a one-year deal, he reportedly gets four, and a guarantee of $52 million. Gardner will make $12.5 million per year over the next four, and then the Yankees get a $12.5 million club option for 2018 (or a $2 million buyout).
The annual value of the free agent years given up by Gardner is not too bad for him, but I’m still surprised he signed a relatively short-term deal this close to free agency (in what projects to be a down offensive market). Gardner, who turns 31 this year, has been worth 6.0, 4.9, and 3.2 wins in his last three fully-health years. I suppose that’s the rub for him – his 2012 season was derailed by injury, and his defense took a step back in 2013, at least according to the advanced defensive metrics. As a speed guy entering his 30s without any pop, maybe he was wise to lock in as much cash as he can right now.
In the end, the effect on the Cubs’ future plans is likely nil, other than reducing the pool of free agents next year for other teams to go after (meaning there could be a little more money available for other teams to go after the guys the Cubs pursue). That is to say, I didn’t see the Cubs going after Gardner on a long-term deal anyway. The Cubs’ future strength, especially post-2014, is on the positional side, and although the outfield pieces could be a little further away, if the Cubs are going to spend big money on an offensive piece, you’d like to hope it would be a significantly productive bat, rather than a guy who derives a great deal of his value from his defense (Gardner’s career line is a solid, but non-game-changing .268/.352/.381 with a 101 wRC+).
At least now the Yankees and Dodgers don’t project to be going after an outfield bat in the near future.