The New York Yankees did not act before the lockout to bolster their presence in center field. With questions remaining regarding Aaron Hicks’ ability to stay on the field during 2022, GM Brian Cashman noted even though low on his priority list of improvements, center field was a concern of his.
That concern continues today with Hicks’s slow start in Dominican Winter Ball. Hicks, in 44 plate appearances, is hitting .250 with only one home run. The fact that he is playing winter ball is encouraging, but at the same time, it says he is not as good as new.
In May, it was revealed that he had a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. Hicks missed most of the 2021 season with the wrist injury that ended up needing season-ending surgery. Hicks has quite an injury history in his time with the Yankees.
In 2018, he had a Right Intercostal Muscle Strain. During 2019, he had two bouts with elbow problems and also endured back problems that kept him off the field. In 2020, he had problems with his calves. 2021 was his worst injury season.
First, in April, he had an undisclosed injury, followed two weeks later with back problems, followed by the wrist injury. He ended playing in only 32 games. Hicks, during the last three years, has never played in more than 59 games.
With his injury history and possibly not having Brett Gardner in 2022, the Yankees were looking for help. The word is that the Yankees were heavily in on Japanese star outfielder Seiya Suzuki, who was posted by the Hiroshima Carp last month. The bad news for the Yankees is that the Toronto Blue Jays and the Red Sox are also pursuing him. Heâ€™ll have three more weeks to negotiate with all 30 teams or return to Japan when the lockout is over.
With the Yankees having Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton already in the outfield, Suzuki is not the perfect fit as he has little time in center field. If the Yankees land Suzuki, they could move Aaron Judge to center as he played adequately there last season in Hicks’s absence. That would allow them to play Suzuki in his natural position in right field. Suzuki is praised for his speed and base stealing. He stole 25 bases two seasons ago â€” but what they like most about him is his power (38 homers and a 1.072 OPS with Hiroshima last season.
The Yankees will hope that Hicks will shake the rust off in winter ball, but they also want to be prepared if Hicks can’t stay healthy. With the loss of Starling Marte to the Mets, the Yankees don’t have many options left in center field. This is just one more situation we will have to wait on an outcome once the lockout is lifted.