A lot of focus this season has been around the sputtering Yankees offense, particularly the drastic decline of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, who before the season began were the Yankees expected source of power.
The expectations for outfielder and newcomer Aaron Hicks were much more modest than those of Teixeira and Rodriguez, but contribution was expected from the former first round pick, still in his mid twenties, and acquired in the off-season for John Ryan Murphy, who provided a solid backup to Brian McCann behind the plate last season.
A great season from Austin Romine has helped fans forget about Murphy’s absence, but it is hard to turn a shoulder to the black hole in the Yankees lineup that took Murphy’s place on the roster (even while Murphy has struggled himself.
There’s no beating around the bush, or waiting out some type of prolonged slump. Aaron Hicks has been awful this season, providing no type of offensive presence, and his switch hitting capabilities have proven useless when it comes to left handed pitching, which was supposed to help Joe Girardi rest guys like Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury when the Yankees were facing a southpaw.
Hicks is currently batting .189 for the season, and his batting average against lefties is even worse than that already startling statistic. His offensive WAR rating is in the negative, and he is showing no signs of life. Hicks is batting .152 in his last 20 games, and was benched last night in favor of Rob Refsnyder in right field.
Hicks’s cannon arm and darts from the outfield cannot hide his futility at the plate. Girardi uses him for defensive purposes, given he has good speed in the outfield and Carlos Beltran needs to be rested to assure his continued hot hitting. However, at this point, there has to be a better option than this.
It is hard to describe just how little of an impact Hicks has had in the lineup. His offensive WAR this season is -1.1, a mark not good enough to break the top 200 in the league.
As was stated earlier, a major factor in bringing Hicks over from Minnesota was his switch hitting capabilities, which would give Girardi flexibility when facing a lefty starter. Hicks has tremendously failed when called upon to face lefties, so if he cannot come close to performing when he is needed most, then why is he being called on at all anymore?
The answer to that could be an injured Aaron Judge, who is being brought back from his injury ever so slowly in fear of injuring the Yankees star prospect more severely. A healthy Judge could very likely have been called up by now to replace Hicks.
Still, there are other options. Refsnyder, starting in place of Hicks on Friday, is still searching for a solidified defensive position. After starting his career at second base, he has ventured to first base and right field mainly. Girardi likes Refsnyder’s bat, and tries to pencil him into the lineup whenever possible.
Refsnyder in right field is a defensive setback, but the offensive setback that Hicks entails is far greater. Refsnyder in right is a better option for when Beltran is the DH, and Teixeira, if healthy, can play his usual first base.
Given the abysmal season Hicks has had, it is unlikely the Yankees would get much of anything back for him at the deadline. Still, it would be worth shopping around to try and land a middle relief arm, and part ways with Hicks. They could likely even improve from within, regardless of how slight it may be. A bat waiting in Triple-A can’t be much worse than what Hicks has displayed so far.
It is safe to say the experiment has failed. It happens. However, there is no need to drag it out. The Yankees need to move on from Hicks, and realize that whoever they put in his place would seem like a better option at this point.