Brett Gardner returning to Yankees in MLB free agency

TAMPA — After all that, Brett Gardner is still a Yankee.

Gardner and the Yankees agreed to a deal, according to a source, that will bring the left fielder back to The Bronx for a 14th season, less than a week before position players are due to report to spring training.

It’s a one-year contract with a player or team option for a second year worth a guaranteed $4 million, pending a physical.

The offer, according to a source, was on the table for “weeks.”

Previously, the Yankees declined Gardner’s $10 million option, which was bought out for $2.5 million.

The 37-year-old Gardner had been among the veteran free agents unable to land a deal this offseason.

Though manager Aaron Boone has declared Clint Frazier to be the Yankees’ starting left fielder and the team added outfield depth in Greg Allen, Jay Bruce and Derek Dietrich, a reunion with Gardner was never out of the question — especially given the injury histories of Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge, in addition to Mike Tauchman’s poor performance last season.

Asked on Friday about Gardner not being part of the Yankees “to this point,” Boone responded, “To this point.”

Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner (right) is returning to the Yankees.
Charles Wenzelberg/Gist Vile

On Wednesday, Boone said of Gardner’s status, “You never know what can happen or transpire. We’ll see.”

Throughout the offseason, general manager Brian Cashman spoke highly of Gardner, who was drafted in 2005 and remains the longest-tenured Yankee, having made his debut in 2008.

“Clearly, we’ve been a big fan of Brett for a long time,’’ general manager Brian Cashman said last month. “He’s been a great Yankee. We’ll see how things transpire over the coming weeks.”

Gardner finished last season in strong fashion, going 13-for-33 with a 1.190 OPS over his final 13 regular-season games and was a significant factor in the playoffs. That came after Gardner had a bounce-back season in 2019, when he had a career-high 28 homers.

Though both sides were interested in sticking together, the Yankees are clearly trying to stay under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, and it was unclear whether Gardner would fit into the team’s plans — or if he would meet their price.

Once the signings of Gardner and left-hander Justin Wilson become official, the Yankees are expected to be about $5 million under the threshold, leaving them little room to make additions during the season.

The Yankees’ 40-man roster is full, with Gardner and Wilson still to be added. Luis Severino, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, can be placed on the 60-day injured list to open up a spot, but the Yankees would still need to make another move.

While the Yankees were able to bring back most of their lineup from last season — including DJ LeMahieu, their stated top priority — the pitching staff will look much different.

Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton are gone from the rotation, and Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and — possibly — Domingo German are in. The Yankees also have a bullpen that will include Wilson and Darren O’Day in place of Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Holder.

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