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The club announced Thursday that Brett Gardner and the New York Yankees have declined their $2.3 million option for 2022 MLB season.
After the Yankees' defeat to the Boston Red Sox in American League Wild Card Game, the outfielder was 38 years old and had served a long time. Retirement seemed like a reasonable outcome. He expressed his desire to be back in the Bronx after the game.
The bigger question was whether Gardner would be wanted by the Yankees after one of his worst offensive seasons.
FanGraphs reported that the 2015 All-Star had an on-base weight of.305 and a slugging percentage of.362. Baseball Savant also reported that he ranked in the sixth and third percentiles of expected batting average (.214), as well as the third percentile of expected slugging percentages (.312).
Gardner hasn’t been a great power hitter, except for 2019, when he hit 28 home runs. His decline rate in this area is increasing as he enters his 30s. His 2020 and 2021 batting averages of.223 and also.222 are his lowest ever.
His.327 on base percentage was just slightly lower than his career average of.342, so he at most found a way for him to compensate for his poor hitting.
It is hard to forget how he also closed 2021. In 28 games in September and October, he had a.250/.314/.458 line. Four of his 10 homers were during this stretch.
Gardner was able to deliver when it mattered. Gardner was also a leader in the clubhouse, who could offer stability and perspective during stressful times.
Joey Gallo described to the team in September how the veteran told them to "just win that one day" per Brendan Kuty, NJ Advance Media.
Gardner explained how, even though this advice isn’t new, it can be difficult to keep your perspective in the heat of a playoff race.
"All season, we've experienced many ups and downs, and we've played some great baseball. However, there have been times when we've been frustrating and we've also played some poor baseball. It's important to slow down the game at this time of year and recognize that we still have great opportunities ahead of us. Don't think about the future and just concentrate on the task at hand.
Managers are responsible for managing the clubhouse. It's in their name.
However, the Yankees will be bringing back their entire starting outfield. This makes him somewhat expendable. Aaron Hicks enters the fourth year in his $70-million extension. Gallo and Aaron Judge still have one year of arbitration. Giancarlo Ston will be making some appearances on the field, but he is mostly the designated hitter.
Both sides are still able to reach a new agreement. Gardner will, at least for the moment, be able explore the open market in agency free of charge.