New York Yankees

Yankees can’t afford to let Brett Gardner get away

Gerrit Cole is the New York Yankees’ top target in free agency, but Brian Cashman can’t afford to let Brett Gardner leave New York this winter. 

New York Yankees fans are on pins and needles regarding their favorite team’s chances of signing Gerrit Cole this week. That’s certainly a top priority for Brian Cashman and his front office, but he can’t afford to let his pursuit of Cole allow Brett Gardner to leave the Bronx.

According to Jon Heyman, several teams are trying to pry Gardner away from the Yankees by offering him a multi-year contract. Given the team’s lack of other options in center field, Cashman needs to make sure those other teams don’t emerge successful in their pursuit of the Yankees’ longest-tenured player.

Things might be different if Aaron Hicks were slated to be healthy on Opening Day, but his need to undergo Tommy John surgery will leave New York without its starting center fielder until at least July. That leaves Aaron Boone’s lineup with a massive hole to fill in the outfield. The organization does not have a young player ready to come up and play meaningful games in center field at the moment.

That makes re-signing Gardner the obvious solution. It’s very likely the 36-year-old outfielder is going to start to experience age-related regression soon, but it didn’t happen to the former College of Charleston standout last season. He still played quality defense in center for the Yankees and actually established a career high in home runs. He was an essential part of a Yankees team that was able to eclipse the 100 win mark in the regular season before falling to the Astros in the ALCS.

That doesn’t mean Cashman should rush out and make Gardner a lucrative, multi-year contract offer. Any multi-year deal for Gardner is almost certainly going to be a massive overpay after the 2020 season. Instead, the Yankees should simply make Gardner a one-year offer that he can’t refuse. That will almost certainly require overpaying him for next season, but it would relieve the organization’s need to overcommit to Gardner in terms of years.

Next: 5 under-the-radar free agent targets for the Yankees

No matter how the deal is structured, the Yankees need to make sure Gardner dons pinstripes again next season. Re-signing him won’t be nearly as splashy as inking an ace like Cole to a mammoth deal in free agency, but it could provide the team just as many wins next season.

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