Brett Gardner, Yankees agree to four-year extension

Brett Gardner bunts during spring training baseball practice Brett Gardner bunts during spring training baseball practice Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. Photo Credit: AP / Charlie Neibergall

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TAMPA, Fla. - During the winter meetings in early December, Brian Cashman repeatedly said he had no interest in trading Brett Gardner, even after spending $153 million a week earlier on centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

He was telling the truth.

In fact, during those meetings in Orlando, the Yankees' general manager began a dialogue with Gardner's agent, Joe Bick, regarding an extension for the versatile and speedy outfielder.

Those talks came to fruition Sunday when the parties agreed to the parameters of a four-year deal for $52 million that will begin in 2015.

The deal includes a fifth-year club option for another $12.5 million with a $2-million buyout. Gardner, 30, who will be paid $5.6 million in 2014, did not receive no-trade protection but will get a $1-million bonus if he is traded.

"Thankful that we were able to keep him," Cashman said Sunday afternoon. "I like what he brings. The speed dynamic, the defense. And I think the offense is there as well."

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From the time the Yankees signed Ellsbury to a seven-year contract in the first week of December, Gardner heard rumors that he could be traded.

With the Yankees in need of pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, as well as infield depth, he was among their most marketable players. And Cashman heard from plenty of teams interested in Gardner, who prefers centerfield but has shown Gold Glove potential when he's played extensively in left.

Gardner, a Yankees third-round draft pick in 2005 out of the College of Charleston, heard all of the trade talk. But even with centerfield no longer an option, he never had a desire to see how this season would play out before testing the market as a free agent.

"I let it be known to them that I wanted to stay here and be a part of this," Gardner said. "I learned from guys that come from other places, there's no better place to play. I look forward to staying here and helping the team win."

In 145 games in 2013, Gardner hit .273 with a .344 OBP and set career highs with eight homers, 33 doubles, a league-leading 10 triples and 52 RBIs. He stole 24 bases in 32 attempts, down from 47 in 2010 and 49 in 2011.

Injuries had limited him to 16 games in 2012.

"It takes a lot of pressure off going out and having to perform in a walk year," Gardner said. "Free agency's something that it kind of intrigued me but it also kind of scared me. I've never been anywhere else. I got drafted here almost nine years ago. I love it here, I love everybody in the organization, the coaching staff and all my teammates, and this is where I want to be."

The feeling was mutual, the reason the Yankees made an exception to their policy of generally not doing extensions for players before their current contracts expire.

"I'm a big Gardy fan," Cashman said. "I said it all winter and this shows you even that much more how this franchise thinks of him . . . I think this money reflects that, in my opinion, he would be a leadoff hitter and playing centerfield for most organizations."

Gardner called it "probably the biggest decision I've ever had to make in my life" -- and not one he thinks he'll regret. He hopes to retire in pinstripes.

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"That's why I signed this deal. I want to stay in New York and I want to be a part of this," he said. "I feel like we're going to have a special season and a special next several years."

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