The Yankees are facing dire straights at the center field position with regular starter Aaron Hicks set to miss extended time, potentially reaching August in a worst-case scenario. The best case would be earlier July as a return date, but the Yankees will have to find ways to supplement his loss in the meantime.
The Yankees have a few ways to supplement the absence of Hicks:
Re-signing veteran Brett Gardner seems like the efficient method of approaching Hicks’ Tommy John surgery, but unloading another $7.5 million for one year isn’t the ideal allocation of funds. However, if general manager Brian Cashman can get his cap down to $4 million, bringing back Gardner should be a necessity.
Another option would be Mike Tauchman, who batted .277 last season while compensating for injuries in the outfield. He’s a far cheaper option, but he also doesn’t have the leadership attributes, and track-record Gardner has with the Bombers.
In an even more efficient scenario, the Yankees bring back both Gardner and Tauchman, as being cautious is an excellent idea considering the number of injuries that plagued the outfield in 2019. All three starters, Aaron Judge, Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton all missed significant time.
The Yankees unloaded a seven-year, $70 million deal for Hicks last offseason, making him a consistent option for the future. Despite injuries derailing his 2019 season, he has the quality to be a great option offensively and defensively.
Last season, he hit .235, his worst since 2016, with 12 homers and 36 RBIs. While his numbers don’t scream production, he’s a gritty player that loves to play for the Bombers. His desire to play with a bum elbow during the postseason attests to that reality.
Even if the Yankees decided they wanted to take the position down a different path, Hicks is on the hook for six more seasons with no out in his contract. The Yankees could use him similarly to Gardner down the road as age takes its toll.