Despite an offseason highlighted by the re-signing of Aaron Judge to the largest contract in team history and the addition of Carlos Rodon to further enhance a productive rotation, there are some weak spots for the Yankees.
One is left field, a position that was the model of stability with Hideki Matsui and Brett Gardner combining for 13 opening day starts from 2003-2020.
And as of now, it looks like the Yankees are going to give Aaron Hicks a shot at being their everyday left fielder, even though the key phrase is “from now on.”
This is based on Brian Cashman’s comments to anyone who has been listening to Sirius Radio on Sunday morning.
Those comments apparently flew under the radar as they came less than 24 hours after the Giants ended their surprising season with a 38-7 divisional-round loss to the dominating Philadelphia Eagles, but many Giants fans support the Yankees. . enamored with the idea of Hicks staying on the team, let alone starting in left field.
“I suspect it will be the type that emerges [in left field] because he still has a lot of talent and it’s all there,” Cashman said in his radio appearance. “Hopefully we can get Aaron Hicks back that we know he’s out there as a consistent player for us.”
The player Cashman is looking forward to 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 in spring training 2019. The extension came after Hicks hit .248 with 27 home runs and 79 RBIs in 137 games while posting an .833 OPS.
Hicks stood out in 2018 with three home runs against the Boston Red Sox on July 1 while playing 131 of his 137 games as center fielder.
Since his career year, Hicks’ numbers are a .220 average (194-of-882) with 30 home runs and 111 RBIs in a span of 275 games amid numerous injuries.
He played 130 of those games last season, including on Sept. 9 when he dropped a pair of fly balls against Tampa Bay in the same inning and those errors were part of a season in which he started hitting .306, then hit .127 before hitting . hit . 257 in June and July. After hitting .137 in August, Hicks has hit .209 over the last 24 games and then suffered a horrifying knee injury in the postseason after losing his center field job to postseason star Harrison Bader.
It’s hard to know if Hicks will ever be able to put him together consistently. There were flashes in 2018, but that may have been the peak.
Either way, the Yankees seem intent on at least starting him in left field, where he has played 112 games in roughly 785 innings.
Or maybe the reliance on a nationally heard radio show is a method for the Yankees to talk about Hicks in a potential trade. Though if a trade were to actually happen, the Yankees would likely be asked to pay a portion of the remaining $30.5 million.
The Yankees are now right on the $293 million luxury tax, marking the high end of the competitive balance tax. They had hoped to keep Andrew Benintendi, who was there for a month last season before getting hurt, but the Yankees didn’t seem interested in his $75 million five-year price that the White Sox signed him for the next five years.
The real impact left fielder is Bryan Reynolds, who asked the Pirates to trade him and is slated to make around $6.8 million next season before reaching his junior year of arbitration.
Other possibilities include Max Kepler to add a left-handed bat or Jurickson Profar via free agency, but given how close the Yankees are to the tax line, it appears Hicks is the left fielder at the moment, though when spring training Opened in March after owners locked out players for more than three months, Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela were upgraded from Yankees regulars to members of the Minnesota Twins.
“We have queues at certain times,” Cashman said. “If it happens in February or March, so be it or let’s go with what we have.”
If Hicks is the opening day left fielder, it will be his second opening day there, having also been there for the 2016 season opener after being acquired from Minnesota in November 2015. Back then, Hicks was something of a unproven commodity as one of the main prospects. for the Twins and two years later, he became the player deemed worthy of a long-term extension only to struggle at the plate and avoid the disabled list.