Yankees: 2 familiar options who can replace Aaron Hicks in 2023

Nick Nielsen
oswaldo cabrera, yankees
Sep 7, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Oswaldo Cabrera (95) makes a catch in the eleventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Just the other day, Yankees GM Brian Cashman came out and said that he believes Aaron Hicks will “bounce back next season” and attributes his poor performance over the course of this year due to injury and confidence.

However, if we’re being honest, what more can a player offer if both their body and mind cannot hold up in the limelight? Hicks has had his moments, absolutely, but he has also been one of the key issues that the team had to figure out how to use accordingly in 2022.

Hitting was down across the league last year, well, unless you were Aaron Judge. Sadly, Aaron Hicks was still worse than league average in an adjusted season. He posted an 80 wRC+, a 1.5 fWAR across 453 PAs, and saw all of his pop just completely evaporate following his wrist and elbow injuries over the past few seasons. Hicks clearly doesn’t have what it takes to be on this team going forward, I just don’t know how the team plans to move on from him — whether that be eating his salary in a trade by attaching a prospect or just releasing him and eating it outright. 

Two players the Yankees could replace Aaron Hicks with:

Oswaldo Cabrera could be used anywhere on the field:

Yet, I think I speak for every Yankees fan when I say I’d much prefer either of these two internal options — though Benintendi isn’t entirely “internal,” moreso that we should prioritize bringing him back. Oswaldo Cabrera and Benny are both far more suited for an everyday lineup role than Hicks is, though I would like to see Oswaldo fill that UTIL spot on the bench.

Having Oswaldo’s flexibility can be a huge benefit for this team, as he played 27 games in RF, nine games in LF, four at SS, and then three a piece at 1B/3B/2B. Simply put, Cabrera was deployed everywhere on the field when the team was ravaged by injuries and poor stretches of play. He was the Yanks’ Swiss Army Knife, especially once DJ went down. Cabrera learned how to play basically four new positions when he got to the majors. He had never seen any time in the OF nor at 1B before the Yankees came knocking. Now, he could play a key role going forward for this franchise.

Cabrera almost certainly earned his keep, and if the team wasn’t sold on his performances, I don’t know what more he could do. Oswaldo will be on the OD roster, just interested to see what spot he takes over. Oswaldo posted a 1.5 fWAR, just like Hicks, but did so with just 171 PAs. He was thrust into the fire and as only Oswaldo Cabrera could do, embraced every minute of it with the utmost gratitude and joy. He quickly skyrocketed as a fan favorite, and next year we will see hundreds of Oswaldo Cabrera jerseys fill out Yankee Stadium any given night. 

Cabrera may not be the same caliber of hitter than Benny is, but his defense is up there with the best in the sport. He was absolutely on fire in RF when Judge was manning CF almost full-time, as he posted a whopping 9 DRS in RF, to go with a 39.7 UZR/150. Also tacked on a single OAA just for good measure.

Andrew Benintendi has really put it together the past few years:

As for Benintendi, many Yankees fans would love to see him return and Don the pinstripes over a full season. Last year he changed his approach at the plate and saw the results come from it. Though he only hit 5 HR over the course of the season, he did significantly improve his BB% (up to 10% from 6.7%, much more in-line with his career) and posted the lowest K% in his career (just 14.8%). I believe Benintendi would be a great guy to bring back, and his ability to hit the ball to all parts of the field could mean he would slot in as the Yanks’ everyday leadoff guy — or certainly against righties.

Benny was very solid this season in what was a huge turnaround year for him. He posted a 2.8 fWAR in 521 PAs, meaning he almost doubled Hicks’ value to the team in just 70 more PAs. Though his Barrel % was down, he saw improvements to his Max EV (109.8 MPH), and his HH% was the second best of his young career (38.5%). 

He posted a .772 OPS in ‘22, with a 122 WRC+, all whilst not making poor contact (a measly 9.7% Soft Contact %). Benny was a very solid player, the definition of consistency. I do hope the Yankees look at Masataka Yoshida personally over the services of Benintendi, but I would be happy with either guy getting the corner spot. My fantastic coworker did a fantastic in-depth article on him just a bit ago, which you can check out here. I am not positive as to what type of role Oswaldo will see this year, all I hope is that it is one where he is on the field as much as possible.

His defense was truly electric, and the team even elected to play him at SS in the ALDS because the greatest SS of all time, IKF, couldn’t field a routine grounder. Oswaldo will play some OF this upcoming season, but the future of the Yankees’ infield remains to be seen. Cashman has been very public about how he believes Volpe and Peraza will have a big role this season, and that means Cabrera will likely be in that group as well. Whether that means he’ll feature as that utility guy, a la DJ LeMahieu, or if he’ll have that regular spot or two that the team elect to roll him out at. 

Don’t expect the Yankees to stay stagnant this Winter:

The off-season is truly in full swing now. The hot stove is burning up, with the Toronto Blue Jays trading away a potential star in the making, Teoscar Hernandez, for reliever Erik Swanson — had a fantastic 2022 year. However, why a team would trade one of their key impact bats for a reliever with one full-year quality season under their belt is a bit odd.

Hopefully, that means that the Jays are in crisis mode, and not that it means they have a big deal lined up to fill that corner outfield spot. The Yankees have done well so far, as retaining Rizzo (and for a quality deal as well) right from under Houston’s noses was ideal. Though the Ridings move made no sense, perhaps there was something more with his injuries that the team didn’t disclose. 

Either way, Benintendi and Cabrera should both — assuming Benny is brought back — have huge roles on this team going forward. I do not want to see Hicks trot out there every day, or even every fourth or fifth game, because I have 0 faith in him. He is a former shell of the man that hit 27 HR en route to a 129 wRC+ season in 2018.

The injuries and inconsistencies have plagued the latter part of his Yankees career, and now fans find him posting more about golf than baseball. It seems like he cares more about getting out to the driving range than he does getting in the cages. Next season must be different than the last few years. The team has been working towards something, we just have to wait and see what that product looks like following a long offseason of chaos.