The talk of the town for the New York Yankees is who will fill their vacant left field position left by Andrew Benintendi, who signed with the Chicago White Sox this off-season.
The Yankees were intrigued by the concept of bringing Benintendi back, who serves as an elite contact hitter with a lefty bat and untapped power. However, they weren’t willing to give him over five years and $18 million per season, which the White Sox dished out for the 28-year-old outfielder.
However, that leaves the Yankees thin at the position, and while they have been connected to players like Max Kepler and Bryan Reynolds, the probability of general manager Brian Cashman executing a trade gets lower each day.
Considering the team sits just below the third luxury tax threshold at $290 million, I don’t believe they’ll be looking to add any big contracts anytime soon unless they’re able to offload some of the bad deals already on the roster, which is unlikely.
- Yankees still have a big starting pitching decision to figure out
- Yankees can still land top remaining free-agent left-fielder if asking price comes down
- Yankees settle with Gleyber Torres on one-year deal, avoiding arbitration
The Yankees could stick to their guns, but they need a better strategy:
Management has already indicated they are fine rolling with the pieces they already have, notably Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks. Even former top prospect Estevan Florial could get a crack during spring training.
The worst-case scenario would be a platoon between Cabrera and Hicks instead of giving the team’s young switch-hitting bat an opportunity to win the starting job outright.
According to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com, the Yankees still feel as though Hicks has plenty of athletic ability and defensive quality in left field, but his offense has been abysmal the past few seasons, making him a liability in the batting order.
The Yankees still believe Hicks has the athletic ability and skill set to be a solid left fielder at Yankee Stadium, where defense is a priority, and rules restricting the shift could help on the rough .215 batting average he’s averaged over the last three years. Perhaps Hicks could be the righty part of a platoon with Cabrera getting lots of lefty at-bats, though the Yankees likely would prefer Cabrera in more of a utility role.
At 33 years old, Hicks hut a putrid .216 with a 33% on-base rate last season, hitting eight homers and 40 RBIs with a 90 wRC+. The last time he recorded a wRC+ above 100 was back in 2020 during the Covid abbreviated season. After suffering a broken wrist, Hicks’s power simply never returned, hurting his offensive production in a big way.
Platoons are always a bad idea, considering they break up a player’s momentum and don’t allow consistent at-bats. Left field could end up being a position battle between Cuba and Hicks during spring training, which seems like the most likely scenario unless Cashman makes a move to acquire another competitor. He has been adding minor-league talent to the roster, notably Willie Calhoun and Rafael Ortega, who has a legitimate shot to push for a roster spot this upcoming season.
Nonetheless, trusting Hicks once again would be like shooting yourself in the foot for a third consecutive season. Cabrera showed elite defensive quality in the outfield and had flashes of offensive competence.
More experience and at-bats will only help him get better, so the Yankees must consider that factor significantly when they’re mulling a potential platoon at an important position in the outfield.