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Yankees' Brett Gardner at ease with skipping free agency

Brett Gardner #11 of the Yankees celebrates after

Brett Gardner #11 of the Yankees celebrates after hitting a walk off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 11, 2013) Credit: Mike Stobe

Brett Gardner hasn't looked back.

Not at any point this season when, during some stretches, he's been the lone bright spot for a struggling Yankees offense.

No, the leftfielder said, he hasn't once wondered what his market value this offseason would have been if he had chosen a different route, one that would have seen him explore free agency rather than sign a four-year, $52-million extension this spring.

"That's one of the things I had to kind of come to terms with and realize that I was going to give up the opportunity to try that out," Gardner said in the Yankees clubhouse on Monday. "Good or bad, no matter how the season went, I had to be at peace with my decision and live with the decision that I made. And there's really no part of me that wishes things were different."

Playing somewhere different held no appeal for the 30-year-old Gardner, the reason he gave his agent, Joe Bick, the go-ahead early last offseason to engage the Yankees in discussions about an extension.

"Who's to say I wouldn't like it somewhere else or fit in well somewhere else or have a good time somewhere else?" Gardner said. "But I don't know that. The grass isn't always greener on the other side and from everybody that I've talked to that's played in other places and then come here, there's no better place to play."

Gardner is in many ways enjoying his best season as a Yankee, a career that started in 2005 when he was selected by the Bombers in the third round out of the College of Charleston. Present slump aside -- going into Tuesday night, the leftfielder was hitting .176 with a .302 on-base percentage in his previous 10 games -- Gardner is hitting .274 with a .353 OBP with 40 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Never known for his power, Gardner has a career-high nine homers.

"Their most consistent guy on offense," one opposing team talent evaluator said of Gardner. "Even more than [Jacoby] Ellsbury."

There's also the Gold Glove- caliber defense Gardner provides in left, not his preferred position -- center is -- but one he's embraced. That process actually started in 2010 when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson, and Gardner played 123 games in left. He played in 149 games there the following season and many in the game believed he, and not Alex Gordon of the Royals, should have won the Gold Glove.

"Gardner still might be their best centerfielder," another opposing team scout said, making clear he thought highly of Ellsbury, just higher of Gardner.

With power at such a premium in the game right now, a player with Gardner's skill set would not have been looking at a megadeal on the open market, but likely would have seen at least slightly more than he signed for.

Gardner considered all of that last offseason while his agent negotiated with the Yankees but ultimately wanted to stay where he was comfortable, a word that often comes out of the mouth of the outfielder.

"I've been with the Yankees for over nine years now," said Gardner, whose deal does not include a no-trade clause, therefore leaving him as a possible trade chip. "It's a great group of people to work around. I enjoy being able to recognize people and know people when I see them and not wonder 'Who's that?' I just feel at home here. The fans have always been great to me . . . I knew I was happy here and it was a number that made sense for me and that I was happy with. I really felt very comfortable with the decision I made.

"I know I made the right call."

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