The Yankees have agreed to a four-year, $52 million extension with speedy left fielder Brett Gardner, as first reported by Jack Curry of the YES Network and confirmed by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The deal also includes a club option for a fifth season at $12.5 million with a $2 million buyout, according to Curry.
The 30-year-old Gardner had already avoided arbitration with the Yankees, signing a $5.6 million deal for the 2014 season on January 17, but without this extension he would have hit the free agent market following this season. Gardner has hit a solid .268/.352/.381 in his career, but much of his value has come from his elite base running and defense.
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) credits Gardner with saving 55.5 runs as a left fielder since he came into the league, the most of any player in the game. His total runs saved by that system are only approached by Carl Crawford, who has saved 55.3 runs, but also played more than twice as many innings. Total Zone (TZ) has the lowest total runs saved for Gardner, but still credits him with 50 and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) is between the two with 53 runs saved. Gardner spent the majority of 2013 in center field, where his defense rates worse, but with the Yankees' acquisition of Jacoby Ellsbury, Gardner is expected to return to left full time now, giving the Yankees an elite defensive duo in the outfield.
Gardner has also provided a great deal of value on the bases throughout his career. He led the American League in stolen bases in 2011 with 49 and his 161 stolen bases rank 14th overall since he broke into the majors in 2008. He has also been effective at taking extra bases. and Fangraph's base running runs calculations credit him with a total of 30.4 runs added on bases, 11th in the game since 2008.
Gardner has struggled with injuries at times in his six-year career. He missed most of the 2012 season with an elbow injury that required surgery and he also had wrist surgery during the 2010 offseason.