Justin Wilson
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

The New York Yankees are getting closer to a reunion with left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, casting doubt on the return of Brett Gardner.

Justin Wilson and the New York Yankees are trending towards a return. But completing this deal would likely push the Yankees right up against the luxury tax threshold.

Wilson would be a fantastic addition to the bullpen. In his last two seasons with the New York Mets, he posted a 2.91 ERA over 58.2 innings. He’s a reliable lefty who can lock down the bridge innings between the starters and the Yankees’ elite late-inning relievers. Signing Wilson would solidify this bullpen as one of the best in Major League Baseball.

However, signing Wilson almost certainly takes the Yankees out of the Brett Gardner market. GM Brian Cashman has made it abundantly clear that the Yankees intend to stay under the luxury tax threshold in 2021. And signing Wilson would leave them with very little money left to work with. With Clint Frazier expected to take over the left field position full time and Mike Tauchman as a bench player, they simply don’t need Gardner anymore. Sure, it would be nice to bring Gardner back. He’s been with the team since 2008 and brings a great glove and a pesky at bat on top of his leadership in the locker room.

But if the team does sign Justin Wilson, they won’t be able to afford to bring Gardner back too. And the fact of the matter is solidifying the bullpen is more important than bringing back a fan favorite to ride the bench.

If this deal with Wilson is finalized, the Brett Gardner era is over for the New York Yankees. It’d be a tough way to end a really successful relationship between the parties. But unless Gardner is willing to take a fraction of what he’s worth or the Yankees are willing to exceed the luxury tax threshold, there just won’t be any room in the budget.