Despite an offseason highlighted by Aaron Judge’s re-signing of the largest contract in team history and the addition of Carlos Rodon to further enhance a productive rotation, there are some weak points for the Yankees.
One is left field, a position that was the model of stability when Hideki Matsui and Brett Gardner came together for 13 opening-day starts between 2003 and 2020.
And as of now, the Yankees appear to be giving Aaron Hicks a shot at becoming the daily left fielder, though the key phrase is “as of now.”
This is based on comments made by Brian Cashman to anyone who might have been listening to Sirius Radio on Sunday morning.
Those comments apparently went a little under the radar since they came less than 24 hours after the Giants ended their surprise season with a 38-7 divisional round loss to the dominating Philadelphia Eagles, but many people who support the Giants Following root for the Yankees, they’re hardly enamored with the idea of Hicks staying on the team, much less starting in left field.
“I suspect he’ll be the guy that shows up [in left field] because he’s still very talented and it’s all there,” Cashman said on his radio appearance. “Hopefully we can get the Aaron Hicks who we know is coming back for us as a consistent player.”
The player Cashman is hoping for is the outfielder, who has been with the Yankees for seven years and is entering the fifth season of a seven-year, $70 million extension signed during spring 2019 training. The overtime came after Hicks struggled with 27 for .248 home runs and 79 RBIs in 137 games while maintaining an .833 OPS.
Hicks marked 2018 with three homers against the Boston Red Sox on July 1 while playing 131 of his 137 games as a centerfielder.
For his career year, Hicks’ numbers are an average of .220 (194 to 882) with 30 homers and 111 RBIs in a 275-game span surrounded by numerous injuries.
He played 130 of those games last season including on September 9th when he dropped a pair of flyballs in the same inning against Tampa Bay and those misses were part of a season where he started with .306 and then hit .127, before hitting .127. 257 in June and July. After batting .137 in August, Hicks batted .209 in his last 24 games and then suffered a scary knee injury in the postseason after losing his midfield job to postseason star Harrison Bader
It’s hard to know if Hicks will ever be able to put it together consistently. There were small glimpses in 2018, but that was perhaps the highlight.
Either way, the Yankees seem intent on at least starting him in left field, where he’s played 112 games spanning about 785 innings.
Or maybe reliance on a national radio show is a Yankee way of approaching Hicks in a potential deal. However, should a trade actually occur, the Yankees would likely be asked to pay part of the remaining $30.5 million.
The Yankees are currently right on the luxury tax number of $293 million, which is the highest portion of the competitive balance sheet tax. They were hoping to keep Andrew Benintendi, who was there for a month last season before he was injured, but the Yankees didn’t seem interested in his five-year, $75 million price tag that the White Sox will spend the next five years obliged.
The real impact left fielder is Bryan Reynolds, who asked the Pirates to trade him and is expected to make about $6.8 million next season before reaching his penultimate year of arbitration.
Other options include Max Kepler to add a left hitter or Jurickson Profar via freehand, but given the Yankees’ proximity to the control line, it seems like Hicks is left fielder at the moment, despite spring training opening in March after the owners after Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, who suspended players for more than three months, went from Yankee regulars to members of the Minnesota Twins.
“We have lines on certain occasions,” Cashman said. “If it happens in February or March, be it that way or we’ll go with what we have.”
If Hicks is opening day left fielder, it will be his second opening day there as he was also in the 2016 season opener after being acquired from Minnesota in November 2015 for the Twins and two years later he became the player who one deemed worthy of long-term extra time, only to have struggled poorly at the plate and dodged the injury list.