If Aaron Hicks is projected to be out a long time, where can the Yankees turn between now and July 30?
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Aaron HICKS has now been on the injured list seven times in six seasons as a Yankee. That does not even count when he would have been on the IL had the 2020 pandemic season begun on time as he was still rehabbing following Tommy John surgery.
So the Yankees should be expert at center-field contingencies. Yet, this wrist injury comes at a particularly bad time because:
• They traded Mike Tauchman three weeks ago, Brett Gardner’s .472 OPS was seventh worst in MLB (minimum 80 plate appearances), hinting that at 37 the end may be near, and Estevan Florial is not ready for prime time after no minor league season in 2020.
• There are not center fielders floating around. After all the justifiable concerns about pitchers returning to a full season after a shortened one, position players also are showing significant vulnerability. The Mets and Phillies essentially played without a bench on Sunday. The Dodgers were viewed as the deepest team in the sport and they acquired three position players over the weekend who were designated for assignment elsewhere: Travis Blankenhorn, Albert Pujols and Yoshi Tsutsugo. Teams might have to begin rethinking carrying 13 or 14 pitchers and just 12 or 13 position players.
• The Yankees plan to stay under the $210 million luxury-tax threshold, which gives them, perhaps, $3 million to spend the rest of the year.
That last one is the most amendable. It would define ownership malfeasance if Hal Steinbrenner let marginal dollars keep the Yankees from the best move to chase a title, especially when we don’t even know if there is going to be a luxury-tax system beyond this year or how penalties will be assessed in a new collective bargaining agreement.
So if Hicks is projected to be out a long time, where can the Yankees turn between now and July 30? (The deadline is a day earlier this season because MLB did not want it to fall on a Saturday when there are day games and players would have to be pulled from games before the 4 p.m. deadline):
1. Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks
The best option. Marte is what the Yankees need: a 27-year-old athletic switch hitter who can play center, short and second. He is owed $30 million from 2022-24 counting his options. He only counts $4.8 million versus the luxury tax, so if Arizona, say, took back someone like Justin Wilson as part of the package, the Yankees still might sneak under this year’s threshold. But it would take a lot (multiple top prospects) to pry Marte from Arizona. The only reason the D’backs might think about auctioning off such a talent is recognition that the Dodgers, Padres and even the Giants look dominant in the NL West in the short term. Marte is due back from a hamstring injury soon.
If not Marte and not center field, Arizona has a host of veteran lefty bats who will not be part of their next good team who would fill the Yanks’ desperate need for better lefty bats: Asdrubal Cabrera, Kole Calhoun, Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta.
2. Byron Buxton, Twins
The Twins are the majors’ most disappointing team. If this continues, they will be motivated to at least sell their walk-year players such as Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, J.A. Happ and Michael Pineda. Buxton and Jose Berrios are not free until after 2022. The Twins will probably be compelled to try to continue to sign them long term before making either available, probably at the earliest this offseason. Buxton is more talented on both sides of the ball and the bases than Hicks, but like his fellow Twins first-round pick, he just can’t stay healthy.
3. Bryan Reynolds, Pirates
He doesn’t even become arbitration eligible until the coming offseason, so perhaps he is a player Pittsburgh wants to try to be part of the solution. But Pirates GM Ben Cherington has done a strong job accumulating organizational talent — many of his rivals praise, for example, the return he got from the Yankees for Jameson Taillon. With so many clubs desperate for offense what might Cherington derive for an inexpensive, switch-hitting outfielder, albeit one probably better suited for a corner than center?
4. Starling Marte, Marlins
Miami is the lone NL East team with a positive run differential. Yet, the likelihood is the Marlins aren’t a solid playoff contender this season and Marte is in his walk year and currently out with a rib fracture. He is ideal for the White Sox, who will be without Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert for most, if not all of this season. Yep, the Yankees will have competition for every quality outfielder.
5. Mike Yastrzemski, Giants
Like Reynolds, he is probably more suited for a corner. San Francisco looks like a contender in 2020. But Yastrzemski is 31 in August; older than Marcell Ozuna and Marcus Semien, for example, though he will not be arbitration eligible until this coming offseason. The Giants have a slew of walk-year players, especially in their rotation: Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Kevin Gausman, Aaron Sanchez and Alex Wood. So could the Yanks, say, offer a Deivi Garcia as the centerpiece for someone like Yastrzemski?
6. Jackie Bradley Jr./Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
Both are signed through next year; Bradley is less expensive ($11 million in 2022) and lefty besides being elite defensively, so he would be more attractive (even amid a poor offensive start.) Could Milwaukee decide it can do more with the money and move an outfielder, even when Christian Yelich’s health continues to be an issue?
7. Ender Inciarte, Braves
As Zack Britton and Darren O’Day return, the Yankees could have an excess of relievers, a commodity that is desperately needed elsewhere. So could they flip a Wilson or Luis Cessa for, at least, a defensive type who could help such as Inciarte (who is making $8 million in the final guaranteed year of his contract) or the Cubs’ Jake Marisnick, who also has some pop?
8. Amed Rosario, Indians
Which team says no to a Clint Frazier/Rosario trade? They are tempting players who never quite fulfill their talent in part because of dubious baseball IQs. They make nearly the same amount. Frazier is a free agent after 2024, Rosario after 2023, but he has two minor league options left compared to one for Frazier. The Yanks could use a center-field type who would provide a legit backup shortstop to Gleyber Torres. The Indians, who picked Frazier fifth overall in the 2013 draft, need the potential for corner-outfield production.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Joel Sherman