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The Yankees avoided a salary arbitration battle with Brett Gardner, who missed most of the 2012 season with an elbow injury, by signing the speedy outfielder to a one-year, $2.85 million contract on Friday.
The deal represents a modest raise for the 29-year-old Gardner, who was paid $2.8 million last season but played in just nine games before injuring his right elbow diving for a ball. He eventually required surgery to remove bone chips from the area and did not return until September.
Gardner's contract also includes incentives based on plate appearances that could add another $150,000: $25,000 each for 375, 400, 425, 450, 475 and 500 plate appearances.
Gardner is a career .266 hitter with just 15 home runs in five major-league seasons, but his speed -- he led the AL with 49 stolen bases in 2011 -- and his ability to draw walks and create runs on the basepaths lends a dimension to the Yankees offense that was missing for most of last season.
That void was filled somewhat when the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki last July, but despite Gardner's lack of playing time -- he played in seven games in September, mostly as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, and came to bat just three times -- the Yankees added him to their postseason roster. He appeared in five playoff games, going hitless in eight at-bats.
Considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the league, Gardner started out as a center fielder but moved to left when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson in 2010. He could move back to center if the Yankees trade Granderson this winter, which is a possibility. A left-handed hitter, he is expected to bat ninth in the Yankees batting order when the opposing starter is a lefty, and could bat leadoff, as he did 57 times in 2011, when the Yankees face a right-handed starter.
The Yankees also announced infielder Jayson Nix cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.