Could the Yankees demote struggling outfielder?

aaron hicks, yankees
Apr 12, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) misses a ball hit by Cleveland Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan (not pictured) during the first inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are nearing the return of elite defensive center fielder Harrison Bader from a lat injury, but they must make room for him on the roster. While reserve outfielder Franchy Cordero is likely to be released due to his recent slump, the Yankees will eventually have to make a decision on struggling outfielder Aaron Hicks, who has been a significant liability over the past few seasons.

Indeed, the entire outfield is in disarray because of extensive injury concerns. General manager Brian Cashman did a subpar job assembling a unit that was bound to struggle after Aaron Judge. Bader is capable of covering around 50% of innings, while Giancarlo Stanton can scarcely play in the outfield without a constant fear of injury.

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The Yankees need their starters to stay healthy:

Regrettably, the Yankees’ least productive players are also the most dependable. Despite management placing their trust and confidence in Hicks, a 33-year-old veteran who hit .216 with a .330 OBP last season, he has had a rather disappointing start.

The last time Hicks posted a wRC+ above 100 was during the Covid-abbreviated 2020 season. In 18 games this year, across 49 plate appearances, Hicks has managed a paltry .156 batting average with a .224 OBP, tallying one RBI and a career-high 28.6% strikeout rate. His 10 wRC+ and -0.6 WAR are just two statistics highlighting his unfortunate decline. Although the veteran outfielder has been known as a solid defensive player, he has experienced significant difficulties this year, with -1 defensive run saved and -2 outs above average.

There seems to be no path to redemption for Aaron Hicks, so Cashman must either swallow his pride and designate him for assignment (DFA) or find a way to trade him. The reality is that Hicks has two more years on his contract after the 2023 season, with an average of $10 million per year. Based on his recent performance, no team in their right mind would consider acquiring him. However, the Yankees might be able to offload a portion of his salary in a more substantial deal, including prospects, thereby clearing the roster spot and saving a few million dollars in the process.

At some point, the Yankees must make this difficult decision, particularly if Jake Bauers returns from his swollen right knee and starts hitting at a serviceable level. After witnessing Hicks strike out without exhibiting any competitiveness on Monday night, it is clear that his time in New York has come to an end.