Aaron Hicks believes he’s ready to help the Yankees in the ALCS, but should Brian Cashman risk messing up his team’s chemistry?
The Yankees are patiently waiting to learn who they will play in the ALCS, but that doesn’t mean it’s a vacation for Brian Cashman and the team’s decision makers. The potential return of Aaron Hicks presents the front office with a really tough choice to make.
Hicks isn’t shy about telling people that he’s ready to go. He’s been fielding, throwing and batting against live pitching in Florida within the last week. If this was the regular season, it would be the time for Hicks to go on a rehabilitation assignment in preparation of rejoining the big league club. Unfortunately for Hicks, this is the postseason.
That means there may not be a viable path for him to rejoin the playoff roster. Manager Aaron Boone has developed a nice balance in the outfield in Hicks’ absence. Aaron Judge is obviously going to start every game he can in right field. Brett Gardner’s career resurgence makes him an easy choice to start in either center or left. The Yankees desperately want to leave Giancarlo Stanton as the starter in left in hopes of him finding his groove and becoming a postseason star.
Cameron Maybin has also been excellent in his role as the team’s fourth outfielder. He is frequently used by Boone as a defensive substitute for Stanton late in games. That doesn’t mean he can’t contribute with the bat. Maybin’s home run at Target Field against the Twins provided his team valuable breathing room in the deciding game of the series.
On the other hand, Hicks is a player that the Yankees really think highly of. There’s a reason they handed him a seven-year, $70 million contract last offseason. He’s firmly entrenched as the team’s center fielder of the present and future. The temptation to bring a guy with such obvious athletic gifts back onto the roster will be strong for Cashman and the team’s brain trust.
In the end, this is a decision that the Yankees can easily justify in either direction. If they leave Hicks in Florida it’s a clear example of the team trying to ride the proverbial hot hand in the postseason. It also wouldn’t preclude Hicks from returning to the roster for the World Series if the Yankees are able to win the pennant.
If Cashman and company do elect to bring Hicks back onto the roster, it will almost certainly be in place of Maybin. That’s a harsh decision from Maybin’s perspective given how he’s played this season, but a healthy Hicks is definitely the superior player. Theoretically, the Yankees’ brass will have enough data to know whether or not Hicks is really 100 percent before they’re forced to announce their ALCS roster.
From a distance, this is a good problem for the Yankees to have. Choosing from too many qualified options is better than selecting from too few. Even so, the question of whether or not Hicks should return to the active roster for the ALCS is going to cause a lot of stress in the Big Apple over the coming days.