Yankees finalize deals for Brett Gardner, Justin Wilson
Brett Gardner and the New York Yankees have finalized a $5.15 million, one-year contract for the outfielder to return for a 14th season.
New York also finalized its deal with left-hander Justin Wilson on Tuesday that also could be worth $5.15 million for two seasons.
Both deals are likely to be worth $4 million for one season but had complicated structures that could lower their 2021 evaluation for the luxury tax.
To clear roster spots, right-hander Luis Severino was put on the 60-day injured list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last Feb. 27, and outfielder Greg Allen was designated for assignment.
Gardner gets a $1 million signing bonus payable within 30 days of approval by the commissioner's office and a $1.85 million salary this year. His agreement includes a $2.3 million player option for 2022. If Gardner declines the option, the Yankees would have a $7.15 million option for 2022 with a $1.15 million buyout.
The 37-year outfielder is the last player remaining from the Yankees’ last World Series title in 2009.
He had a one-year contract for 2020 with a $2 million signing bonus and a $10 million salary that became $2,962,963 in prorated pay. Gardner became a free agent after the Yankees declined a $10 million option, triggering a $2.5 million buyout.
Gardner hit .223 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 130 at-bats last year, rebounding after a slump that sunk his average at .169 at the start of September. He batted .369 (7 for 19) in the playoffs.
Manager Aaron Boone said Saturday that for now Clint Frazier was projected over Gardner in an outfield that has Aaron Hicks in center and Aaron Judge in right.
“I expect Clint to be our left fielder and to be in that starting lineup,” Boone said. “A guy like Gardy is a guy who would play a lot, certainly, as a lot of our guys that will quote unquote be bench players or whatever, but Clint is going to be a regular player for us going into the season.”
Over the full 2019 season, Gardner reached career-best totals of 28 homers and 74 RBIs to go along with a .251 average. He is a fan favorite for his fiery demeanor and longevity.
Gardner and the switch-hitting Hicks often were the only left-handed bats in the Yankees’ starting lineup last year.
“One of the things I look at is his toughness, the ability to post, the ability to play through things, the premium he puts on being ready to go each and every day,” Boone said. “There is a blue collar-ness to the way he goes about his business I think that is infectious. He’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder that he plays with.
“And I think he’s got a young man’s body. He’s in great shape. He has aged very well. And I think you’ve seen him really I think adapt and apply information to continue to make himself in a lot of ways a better player but certainly still a very relevant player,” he said.
Wilson's deal includes a $2.85 million salary this year and a $2.3 million player option for 2022 that, if exercised, would trigger a conditional 2023 club option for that year's minimum plus $500,000. He would have the chance to earn $500,000 in performance bonuses in 2023 based on games: $100,000 for 40 and each additional five through 60.
If Wilson's 2022 player option is declined, the Yankees could exercise a 2022 club option for $7.15 million with a $1.15 million buyout.
Wilson joins a bullpen headed by closer Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton, both left-handers. Hard-throwing right-hander Chad Green is joined by side-arming right-hander Darren O’Day, who was signed after the Yankees dealt Adam Ottovino to Boston in a cost-cutting move.
The 33-year-old Wilson was 5-0 with a 3.10 ERA in 74 appearances for the Yankees in 2015, then moved on to Detroit and the Chicago Cubs before spending 2019 and 2020 with the Mets. He was 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA in 19 2/3 innings over 23 appearances last season. He struck out 23 and walked nine.
He made $1,851,852 in prorated pay from a $5 million salary and $95,833 in earned bonuses for $1,947,685 in total.
Wilson averaged 95 mph with his fastball, throwing it slightly more often than on half his pitches. He also throws cutters, mixing in an occasional slider and curveball.
Wilson is a nine-year major league veteran who spent his first three seasons with Pittsburgh. He played catch at camp Tuesday and driving from Texas.
“I'm really excited about him. He's somebody that I think we kind of early on in the winter time identified as someone that could potentially impact our club," Boone said. “We think he's going to be another good complement to what we hope is a really special bullpen.”