The left field position for the New York Yankees remains a hole that must be filled. Whether that be through free agency or via trade is yet to be seen, but general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner indicated on Wednesday that the team was still adding pieces and looking to bolster the roster this off-season.
However, Cashman delivered a terrifying reality regarding Aaron Hicks and his future with the team in 2023. It is expected that the Yankees will look to offload Hicks and the $30 million remaining on his deal over the next three years, but they simply cannot rely on him as a starting-level player, especially in left field.
“We are prepared to go with what we have internally. Aaron Hicks has rehabbed his knee from the injury in the postseason.”
The Yankees still seemingly have Aaron Hicks in their plans:
Cashman specifically mentioning Hicks is a bit scary, especially with Oswaldo Cabrera showcasing elite defense in the outfield last season and taking steps forward as an offensive contributor.
In 2022, Hicks hit a measly .216 with a 33% on-base rate, eight homers, and 40 RBIs. He recorded a 24.1% strikeout rate and a 13.7% walk rate, including a 90 wRC+. Defensively, he played 995.1 innings, tallying a .996 fielding percentage with one error.
However, he recorded four defensive runs saved above average and one out above average, but his power metrics have fallen off significantly in the batter’s box. His hard-hit rate was the lowest it’s been since 2017 at 33.1%. He recorded a 5.8% barrel rate, his lowest metric since 2016, with an 87.9 mph exit velocity, the second-worst number in his career.
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Whether it be confidence related or simply a result of a broken wrist he sustained in 2021, expecting Hicks to elevate his performance back to the 2018 version of himself is extremely optimistic.
The Bombers are far better off rolling with Cabrera, who earned 13 defensive runs saved above average at multiple positions over just 44 games in 2022. He is also a switch hitter that is taking strides and has decent projections. He is expected to hit 14 homers next season with a .237 average and .300 OBP, including a 106 wRC+.
One way or another, the Yankees need to inject more talent into left field, but Cashman singling out Hicks and his recovery as a potential option certainly makes your skin crawl. Nonetheless, he could just be looking to instill confidence in the player, given he’s still on the roster, at the very least, until they find a way to offload his deal.