The Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year deal worth $153 million Tuesday, then gave Carlos Beltran a three-year deal valued at $45 million on Friday. With Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells all on the roster as well, that leaves Gardner expendable.
Gardner, 30, was the team's primary center fielder in 2013, but now appears to be on the outside looking in for a starting spot. Ellsbury will certainly take over in center field while Soriano and Beltran will likely take the corners. The Yankees do not have a fulltime DH, so there could be some shuffling that would help Gardner see playing time. Furthermore, given the age of most of the New York outfield and Ellsbury's struggles to stay healthy, Gardner could have value as a potential fill-in in case of injury. However, the Yankees may feel they can get better value out of him in a trade.
Over 145 games in 2013, Gardner hit .273/.344/.416 with a league-leading 10 triples. He also stole 24 bases -- a nice number, but far from his 2011 campaign when he swiped a league-high 49 bags. An elbow injury in 2012 caused him to miss all but 16 games.
With Gardner having just one year of team control remaining, the Yankees could have a tough time attempting to find a team that will give them anything more than a back-of-the-rotation type starter. Gardner's batting line profiles very similarly to Norichika Aoki, who has hit .287/.355/.399 over a two-year career. Aoki was recently traded from the Brewers to the Royals in exchange for Will Smith, who thrived in a bullpen role last year but has struggled as a starter.