Aaron Hicks
The Yankees are trapped with Aaron Hicks and there’s no way out. Hicks epitomizes the Yankees struggles and there’s no easy solution. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The Yankees Are Trapped With Aaron Hicks And There’s No Way Out

The New York Yankees have the worst record in the American League (5-9). When’s the last time you heard that? Look, panicking over April baseball isn’t wise but there are red flags littered all over this Yankee organization. You could throw a dart and pick a number of names to go over. However, Aaron Hicks just might be the perfect representation of the current iteration of the Yankees. Aging, window shrinking, and an imperfect jigsaw puzzle.

Aaron Hicks isn’t a bad baseball player. Hicks is a plus defender that can get on base with an occasional power stroke from the left handed side. The problem is Hicks is a bad baseball player in his role. You can check the Yankees lineup cards every day. I bet you will see Hicks batting third in the lineup which is just flat out comical for a team that has championship aspirations.

It doesn’t matter who you want to blame. Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone both have issues. It’s hard to take a team seriously that continues to hit Aaron Hicks third in the order. Part of it is that the Yankees are trapped with him. Part of it is New York built a goofy lineup. Part of it is stubbornness.

Again, Hicks isn’t a bad baseball player. Regardless, he’s still a defensive minded center fielder that should be hitting 7, 8, or 9 in a real lineup. The former first round pick in 2008 is also starting to age. Hicks, 31, has seen his batting average dip four consecutive years. Thus far in 2021, the Yankees center fielder is sporting a batting line of .174/.255/.261 with 1 home run in 51 plate appearances.

I don’t want to call it the Jacobs Ellsbury contract because it’s not as severe. However, signing Hicks to a seven year contract worth $70 million appeared team friendly, but probably wasn’t wise. Hicks’ value will disintegrate once his athleticism vanishes and is no longer a plus defensively.

In reality, that part isn’t the problem. It’s the Yankees. They should be able to afford a slightly overpaid center fielder. Except… the Yankees no longer operate the way they used to. Instead, they will continue to trot out the elder version of Hicks who continues to underperform. You think this version of Brett Gardner is still on the Yankees roster if the old Steinbrenner is still alive?

In reality, Brian Cashman should be blamed here. He built a goofy right handed dominant lineup in a ball park that begs you to hit easy home runs to right field. Hicks is the lone lefty starter and New York feels that they need to put that sort of bat to separate Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. The thought process isn’t incorrect, per se, the problem is the man they’re having hit third in the lineup doesn’t have that sort of ability.

More so than anything, the Hicks dilemma epitomizes the Hal Steinbrenner regime in New York. Two plus years ago I wrote a post titled: ‘Does The Aaron Hicks Extension Mean Estevan Florial Is Expendable?‘. Estevan Florial at the time was the last star name in the Yankees farm system. With Hicks being retained long term, that should have made Florial a trade chip. Especially a team that also was carrying Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Clint Frazier on the roster. Any way you slice it, there was no room for Florial.

Two plus years later, Florial is still hanging around in the minors. The only difference is, Florial lost a lot of his luster after a bad Arizona Fall League where he hit .178 in 21 games. Instead of trading Florial for a piece that could get you over the top to win a championship, Cashman continues to hoard damaging his own team in the process.

That’s the difference between the Red Sox and Yankees. Dave Dombrowski was willing to trade Yoan Moncada for Chris Sale to secure a championship. Cashman would rather hoard and the thought of trading prospects that will never see the field is just too much to ask. Luis Severino, Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and Florial are all players that could have been traded to secure that elusive 27th championship.

Instead, the Yankees are struggling and we’re starting to see the reality of how baseball works. Strike while the iron is hot. Go all in when you have a chance to win the title. The elephant in the room is the Yankees window is shrinking. DJ LeMahieu is 32. Gerrit Cole is 30. Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t care about baseball. Aaron Judge can’t stay healthy. Aaron Hicks isn’t the same player he used to be either.

The reality is Cashman built a goofy lineup and nothing really looks like it fits the way it should. The Yankees were too cheap to retain Didi Gregorius after they handed Gerrit Cole a mega contract. Gregorius was a perfect fit in New York as someone capable of handling the pressure and providing a left handed pull happy bat to park cheap homers in right field.

Instead, the Yankees have Gleyber Torres playing out of position at shortstop. Torres is not a SS. There’s nothing more that needs to be said and it looks like it’s affecting him at the plate. What looks minor on paper has caused a massive trickle-down effect forcing Hicks to hit third in a lineup that doesn’t know how to do anything other than strike out or hit 450 foot home runs with nobody on base (minus LeMahieu).

Aaron Hicks sums up the Yankees perfectly. An imperfect jigsaw puzzle that’s slowly starting to rear itself on its own head. New York is trapped with Hicks. The question is does Cashman have the wherewithal to make changes before it’s too late. For better or worse, that Yankees are trapped with Aaron Hicks.