Aaron Hicks has at times been an excellent player for the Yankees during his tenure with the team. At his best moments, before all of the injuries, he was a bonafide All-Star, with the skills to match. He was an all-around player, and a player development success story.
To whit, he hit 27 home runs in 2018 to go along with an excellent triple slash line of .248/.366/.467, following up a breakout 2017 in which he flashed his five-tool skillset. Unfortunately, he has never been able to recapture the ability to perform at such a high level. He has been slowed down by age and injury.
While his ability to see pitches and lay off ones outside the zone has never waned, his ability to produce good contact has faded away. As a result, Hicks stands in the lower third of the league in most contact quality metrics.
His triple slash line sits at .216/.337/.302 with an OPS at .639. Those are terrible numbers. The metrics show that he is probably hitting as well as he should be. He is not getting particularly unlucky or lucky. His expected batting average is in spitting distance of his actual batting average at .218 and the same being true of his expected slugging of .322. These are not the numbers of a player with a role on a team aspiring to win the World Series. So what should the Yankees do with Aaron Hicks?
There is very little to indicate that Hicks will be able to improve his ability to hit. While he has certainly not lost his ability to see the ball, his ability to actually reach the ball and hit it with authority has not been seen in almost two years now. It’s seeming foolhardy to think it will ever return. Recently, the Yankees have been using Hicks to ride the bench while other players start in the outfield. He has been only playing every three or four days since Oswaldo Cabrera came up.
Keeping Hicks around just in the hope that he will suddenly start to play better does a disservice to him and the team. It’s obvious that his ability to strike the ball deserted him, possibly permanently. Sitting on the bench will probably not solve that problem. Instead, the Yankees should designate him for assignment, in a move that would benefit both the team and Hicks himself.
With the trade of Harrison Bader, the writing has already been on the wall for Hicks’ time with the Yankees. By designating him for assignment now, he has the opportunity to catch on with another team where he could play every day, or even go to the minor leagues for a brief spell to work on his swing out of site.
We have seen with stories like Matt Carpenter that older players can occasionally have late career, seemingly magical resurgences. However, that only came after Carpenter worked specifically to fix his swing after a long period of poor performance.
As for the Yankees, it makes no sense to save a roster spot for someone who is most likely not part of the team’s current or future plans. The Yankees have another center fielder already on the 40-man roster that they could call up instead (not Bader). Estevan Florial is waiting right there in Triple-A.
With the RailRiders (Triple-A), Florial has an excellent triple slash line at .288/.371/.479 with an accompanying OPS at .848. At the same time, he has shown decent power with 12 home runs. He is only 24-years-old, and while it’s not likely that he will turn into an impact player in the future, he certainly has a better chance of being one than Hicks as the latter ages into his mid-30’s. It makes more sense to hand Florial a few more at-bats to get a better sense for what he could provide.
While Bader is still on the injured list, now would be a perfect time to see whether Florial could help the club. At the same time, designating Hicks for assignment would give him the opportunity to try and latch on somewhere else. It makes no sense to keep Aaron Hicks on the roster just to ride the bench. Doing so doesn’t help the Yankees, nor does it help the player.