All Aaron Hicks could do Monday night was wear it. He heard the boos, which were reminiscent of the ones that became Joey Gallo’s walk-up and exit music. The Yankees center fielder understands the frustration. He feels it.
“I’m out there trying to compete and help this team win, obviously. It’s not nice to hear boos, but, when you’re having the season the way that I am, that’s kind of the way it goes, especially around here,” Hicks said after the Yankees’ 4-0 loss to the Rays. “They want results.”
Hicks is hitting .173 with runners in scoring position this season, fifth worst in the majors and is in a 5-for-42 slump this month. Clearly the results the fans and Hicks want are not there right now, but what can the Yankees do about it?
At the trade deadline, GM Brian Cashman dealt away solid starter Jordan Montgomery, after acquiring Frankie Montas, for an elite defensive center fielder in Harrison Bader. The New York native, however, has not played since June 26 because of plantar fasciitis.
And there is no clear idea of when he will be able to help.
“Now he’s in phase two [of his rehab], where it’s kind of that progression of [working out] in the pool on the [antigravity treadmill],” Aaron Boone said. “So he’s in that phase which started, I think, in the last couple of days. That’ll probably be a week or 10 days of that.
“And then hopefully that goes well and he can start to graduate to baseball activities.”
The 28-year-old Bader won a Gold Glove in 2021. He was hitting .256/.303/.370 with 15 steals in 72 games this year. He had a -2 Defensive Runs Saved this season, according to FanGraphs.
A possible stopgap while Hicks figures it out as Bader rehabs is to move Aaron Judge back to center field. That would leave Tim Locastro, Marwin Gonzalez or Hicks to play right field until Bader gets back, or when Giancarlo Stanton gets back from his Achilles injury and then play him every day in the outfield.
The Yankees also do have an athletic, young center fielder in Triple-A hitting .284/.365/.487 with a .852 OPS in 88 games. They have given Estevan Florial very limited big league looks. In 40 plate appearances in the majors, Florial has hit .206/.325/.353 with a .678 OPS, a home run and two stolen bases. The Yankees have always seemed concerned with the strikeout rate of the 24-year-old, but at this point his athleticism could be a burst of energy for a team that is struggling through the dog days of summer.
Right now, the Yankees are just watching Hicks continue to struggle.
Hicks’ Monday nightmare really began in the fourth inning when he misread David Peralta’s flyball. He turned the wrong way and then lost where the ball was. It got behind him and turned into a leadoff triple.
“Obviously, it’s a play … it’s got to be made,” Boone said, “but just a guy that’s struggling right now.”
That was clear at the plate Monday night, too. In the second inning, he ended a Yankees rally attempt. He struck out with runners on first and second. Perhaps worse was his inning-ending ground ball into a double play in the bottom of the fourth.
Overall this season, the switch-hitting Hicks is hitting .218/.339/.305 with a .644 OPS. In the fourth year of a seven-year deal worth $70 million, Hicks has struggled to regain the form that led to a career-best 27 homers in 2018. He has been hit hard by injuries, requiring Tommy John surgery in 2019 and then wrist surgery that cost him most of the 2021 season.
Hicks has six homers this season, but his last extra-base hit was when he homered July 9 at Fenway. He is extremely frustrated by his season.
“I’m putting the work in trying to do my best to compete every single day, especially for this team. And, everything I’m doing is just not showing up result-wise,” Hicks said. “I’m either flying out, striking out or just rolling over something. So, just overall disappointing. I’m just gonna get back out there tomorrow and try to figure out a way to continue to help this team and try to win.”