Gardner would have earned $10 million in his age-37 season had New York picked up his option. Instead, he will be free to test the market this winter.
The 2015 All-Star has spent his entire 13-year career with the Yankees. In 2020, he slashed .223/.354/.392 with five home runs, 15 RBI and 26 walks.
While Gardner wasn't necessarily expected to be a full-time player in 2020, he appeared in 49 of the Yanks' 60 regular-season games and played pretty regularly because of the fact that New York was ravaged by injuries.
With the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, D.J. LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela all missing significant time, Gardner was one of the few constants in the Yankee lineup.
When those players got healthy, Gardner looked like he would be relegated to the bench, as Clint Frazier was playing well, but Frazier struggled down the stretch and Gardner stepped up, which led to Gardner being the regular left fielder during New York's run to the American League Division Series.
Gardner was once one of the best base stealers in Major League Baseball, as he swiped 47 bags in 2010 and an American League-leading 49 in 2011. In recent years, though, Gardner has largely leaned on his power.
His left-handed stroke makes him a danger to pitchers at Yankee Stadium, and it manifested itself in the form of a career-high 28 home runs and 74 RBI in 2019.
If the Yankees decide against bringing Gardner back in free agency, New York's starting outfield next season will likely be Frazier in left, Aaron Hicks in center and Judge in right.
Heyman noted that the Yankees may still re-sign Gardner at a lower price, and that seems to be the likeliest scenario since it is difficult to envision Gardner in a different uniform.