In a disheartening series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night, the Yankees suffered a 5-4 defeat. Despite an outstanding effort from Harrison Bader, the team was unable to overcome their struggles in defensive play and limited offensive output with runners in scoring position.
With two men on base and the game hanging in the balance, the Yankees opted for pinch-hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa, boasting a mere .193 average and .233 OBP this season. Manager Aaron Boone chose IKF over Aaron Hicks, who has a .146 average, .212 OBP, 3 wRC+, and -0.7 WAR. As expected, Kiner-Falefa struck out.
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The Yankees are trying everything and everyone:
Seeking alternatives to Hicks, the Yankees tested Jake Bauers in left field against one of baseball’s elite teams. Bauers committed a costly error, misjudging a fly ball that resulted in a late-game run for Tampa. The Yankees’ outfield lacks the necessary depth and quality to challenge superior teams, prompting a serious discussion about potentially designating Hicks for assignment due to his diminishing value. Despite his subpar performance in recent seasons, Hicks has two years and $20 million remaining on his contract and earns $10.5 million this season for negative production.
If the Yankees can’t justify keeping him on the roster, they have two options: designate him for assignment and absorb the financial hit over the next two years or attempt to include him in a trade as a cast-away.
To entice an opposing team to assume part of his salary, the Yankees will need to offer more value than Hicks is worth. It is highly unlikely another team would take on the remaining $30 million of his contract, so general manager Brian Cashman might have to throw in a prospect to save some money down the line.
One could argue that another team might not even want to use a 40-man roster spot on Hicks. While Cashman could point to players like Joey Gallo who found success after leaving the Yankees, Hicks’s situation is quite different. His power is lacking, and he has experienced declining production for three consecutive years. This season, he has a 20.6% hard-hit rate, a 0.0% barrel rate, and a career-low 86.1 exit velocity.
On the defensive side, the seasoned outfielder is having one of his worst seasons, with -1 defensive runs saved and -2 outs above average over 126 innings. Hicks has become a liability across the board, forcing the Yankees to make a tough decision, although some might argue it’s an easy one.