The Toronto Blue Jays could try to deal for New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner if they don't re-sign Jose Bautista, according to Hardball Talk's Ashley Varela.
Bautista and the Blue Jays are far off in contract negotiations, according to the Toronto Star's Richard Griffin. Bautista, 36, rejected a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer and is seeking a four-year deal worth $100 million, according to Griffin.
If the Blue Jays cannot reach a deal with Bautista, who has been with the Blue Jays since 2008 and hit at least 35 home runs in four of the past seven seasons, then Toronto might look to check in on Gardner, for whom Yankees GM Brian Cashman has fielded inquiries.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Blue Jays have serious interest in Gardner, Varela notes, but they would be the second division rival that has reportedly been linked to Gardner. The Baltimore Orioles were linked to him in December.
The Yankees, who have been trying to get younger and already dealt veteran catcher Brian McCann in the offseason, believe Gardner, who has two years and $24 million left on his contract, could net a return of a couple of mid-level prospects depending on how much salary the Yankees take on. Including bonuses, Gardner will earn $12.5 million in 2017 and $11.5 million in 2018, according to Spotrac.
Gardner, 33, recorded a .261/.351/.362 batting line with seven home runs, 41 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 148 games last season. A nine-year veteran, he has a lifetime .264 batting average with 63 home runs, 342 RBIs and 218 stolen bases.