Fans and pundits weren't the only ones taken by surprise when the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury away from the Red Sox.
"It was unexpected on my end," Brett Gardner said Tuesday night. "But I don't think anybody really saw it coming."
The Yankees signing Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153-million deal meant a likely move for Gardner to leftfield from his preferred centerfield position and, possibly, to another team. Signing Ellsbury, as well as Carlos Beltran, gave the Yankees a glut of outfielders, possibly making Gardner expendable.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman received inquiries regarding the 30-year-old all winter. He insisted he wasn't shopping the outfielder but, per his job description, would always listen to offers.
Gardner did not hear that directly from Cashman but, after Ellsbury was brought into the fold, manager Joe Girardi placed a call. "He called to check in to see how I was feeling, what I was thinking," Gardner said at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan before the 34th annual Thurman Munson Awards, where he was honored along with Dillon Gee, David Cone, Jim Kaat, Bernard King and Antrel Rolle. "He explained that it didn't necessarily mean that they didn't want me around or didn't see a spot for me. He still envisioned me playing a big role on this year's team."
Gardner, who hit .273 with a .344 OBP with eight homers and 52 RBIs in 145 games before missing the final 2 1/2 weeks of the season with an oblique injury, said being the subject of significant trade rumors for the first time in his career was more annoyance than anything.
"You hear about it, it's hard to ignore it," Gardner said. "I don't go digging for information on it on a daily basis but when you talk to people . . . I try to tell my wife and parents and people like that not to bother me with it, but other people say, 'Oh, I heard this or heard that.' You can't help but try and run from it but it always follows you, so you try not to let it bother you."
Gardner said of Ellsbury: "You put him on our team or any other team across baseball and he makes them better . . . I'm looking forward to playing alongside him and pushing each other and getting the best out of each other."
Ellsbury's signing produced headlines, but it was nothing compared to those made by Alex Rodriguez, who may or may not show up at spring training. Gardner joked about the possibility.
"My locker's usually between him and Robbie Cano, so maybe I'll have a whole row to myself," Gardner said. "Obviously, I don't know what to expect with that. I haven't really thought about that but I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there."