The New York Yankees and outfielder Brett Gardner have agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $52 million, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has the salary breakdown, which shows that the pact is slightly front-loaded: a $2 million signing bonus, $12 million in 2015, $13 million in 2016, $12 million in 2017 and $11 million in 2018.
The deal includes an option for a fifth season in 2019 that would be worth $12.5 million with a $2 million buyout. He will still be playing under his one-year, $5.6 million contract for 2014 with the extension kicking in for the 2015 season, when he could have left in free agency. Thus, the new deal will keep him in pinstripes through the 2018 season for sure, with the option potentially taking him through 2019.
Any rumors that the Yankees may look to trade Gardner can now surely be extinguished. After the Yankees signed both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran in free agency there had been speculation they could move Gardner in exchange for pitching or infield help. Instead, the team will now commit to a Gardner-Ellsbury-Beltran outfield with Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano backing them up. Soriano and possibly Beltran will also see plenty of time at designated hitter as well.
After missing all but 16 games in 2012 due to an elbow injury, Gardner came back strong in '13 as the teams primary center fielder. Over 145 games, he hit .273/.344/.416 with strong defense and 24 stolen bases and a career-high eight home runs. The speedy outfielder is a former league-leading base stealer and could wreak even more havoc on the basepaths alongside Ellsbury.
Depending on the contract breakdown, Gardner's deal could push the Yankees toward the luxury tax once again the next couple of years. Before signing him, they already had $149 million committed to nine players in 2015 and $145 million committed to eight players in 2016.