Injuries to other outfielders gave Brett Gardner a lot of playing time in 2019, they may give him a roster spot with the Yankees in 2020.
Yankees fans still reeling from the team’s heartbreaking ALCS loss to the Astros got a further dose of bad news on Thursday. Starting center fielder Aaron Hicks is set to miss at least eight months after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The only member of the organization really primed to benefit from Hicks’ injury is Brett Gardner.
General Manager Brian Cashman broke the news of Hicks’ long-term absence to the media during his post-season media session. Hicks is set to undergo surgery on October 30th and the anticipated recovery time is somewhere between eight and ten months. That gives the veteran outfielder to return sometime during the 2020 season, but it would be a surprise to see him back on the field before the All-Star break.
That leaves the Yankees with a gaping hole in center field. The organization signed Hicks to a long-term deal last season with the idea that he would man the position for the foreseeable future. At the very least, New York’s front office hoped Hicks could play an above-average center field until top prospect Estevan Florial matured enough to take over. As it stands, he’s still several seasons away from becoming a major league regular.
The most likely solution for the Yankees to pursue will be to re-sign Brett Gardner to another one-year deal. He’s the team’s longest-tenured player and he enjoyed a very productive season in 2019. He will struggle to post a WAR of 4.0 again in his age 37 season, but he is a steady player that Aaron Boone can count on to grind day in and day out.
The other internal option would be for the Yankees to find a way to re-sign Cameron Maybin. He joined the team midseason and provided a real spark with his athleticism on the field and infectious personality in the dugout. He isn’t a young player either. Maybin will play next year at the age of 33.
In the end, look for Gardner to get the edge in the battle over Maybin. He’s a more established commodity with the franchise and he happens to be left-handed. The balance he gives Boone’s lineup combined with the homers he can hit over the right field fence at Yankee Stadium combine to make him a good bet to return to the Bronx in 2020.