The way Aaron Hicks was talking after Monday’s nightmare suggested he could be looking to rent some beachfront real estate near Joey Gallo at some point in the not-to-distant future.
Gallo was booed out of the Bronx, traded to the Dodgers and hasn’t stopped praising the West Coast lifestyle ever since. To him, the pinstripes were a prison sentence, and GM Brian Cashman sprung Gallo with a deadline deal that managed to net a pitching prospect in return.
The moral of the story? Everybody has an expiration date -- some just arrive there quicker than others. And given Hicks’ ongoing struggles this season, the Yankees seem to be reaching a point of no return with their enigmatic outfielder. It’s feeling like change-of-scenery time for both parties, only there’s still six weeks left in the regular season, followed by the playoffs, which makes things a little more awkward moving forward.
That situation will worsen for Hicks starting Wednesday, when the Yankees are expected to bring up centerfield prospect Estevan Florial from Triple-A Scranton. Florial, 24, was hitting .284 with 14 homers, 32 stolen bases and an .852 OPS in 88 games.
Counting on Florial to be the missing “spark” during the Yankees’ miserable slump is a lot to put on the highly-touted prospect’s plate. They’ve scored one run in 26 innings and Tuesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Rays was their 11th in 13 games. Also, Florial’s had minimal experience in pinstripes, batting .207 (7-for-34) with a home run in those 16 games over three seasons.
“Of course we want the spark,” manager Aaron Boone said afterward. “But we’re also looking at it as potentially bring someone in that we think makes sense.”
As opposed to Hicks, who’s got to be on his way out after this season, despite the big chunk of money left on his deal. Hicks is due a guaranteed $30.5 million through 2025, the remainder of that seven-year, $70-million deal that was supposed to be a stroke of budgetary genius by Cashman at the time. It’s the main reason why Hicks stayed on the roster beyond the Aug. 2 deadline, and to make matters even more uncomfortable, the Yankees already have brought in his replacement by trading for Harrison Bader.
Cashman wanted Bader so badly he surrendered a reliable lefthanded starter in Jordan Montgomery in the swap -- and didn’t mind that Bader showed up wearing an orthopedic boot for plantar fasciitis that won’t make him available until some point next month. As for the switch-hitting Hicks, he didn't play Tuesday as Boone went back to Aaron Judge in centerfield and opted for utility man Marwin Gonzalez in rightfield.
Hicks, to be fair, probably could have used a day to clear his head. In Monday’s 4-0 loss to the Rays, he turned David Peralta’s catchable deep drive into a standup triple by spinning around three times and then failing to even get his glove on it. When Isaac Paredes followed with an RBI single, Hicks’ blunder wound up leading to the only run the Rays would need.
But the misery didn’t stop there. In the bottom half of that fourth inning, after the Yankees loaded the bases, Hicks bounced meekly into a 1-2-3 double play that killed their best chance to score. It marked the fourth time Hicks has hit into a DP in a bases-loaded situation this season, the most in the majors. Based on Hicks’ on-field tribulations, along with his somber mood later Monday night in speaking to the media afterward, Boone was asked before Tuesday’s game if Hicks was “playable” at the moment.
“He’s a playable player -- he has to be,” Boone said, “especially with us potentially being short not having DJ [LeMahieu] on the bench today. It’s been a difficult stretch and season. We’ve got to kind of rally around him, and get him prepared in the best space that we can to help us win a game.”
Hicks was hitting .218 with six homers and a .644 OPS heading into Tuesday and his 1.2 WAR ranked 39th among the 52 qualified outfielders in the majors. After what everyone witnessed Monday night, he’s looked considerably worse than those numbers even suggest, and the Bronx fans really ripped into him with boos that had to register among the highest decibel levels this season at Yankee Stadium.
“I’m out there trying to compete, and help this team win, and obviously it’s not nice to hear boos,” Hicks said. “But when you’re having the season I am, that’s kind of the way it goes, especially around here. They want results.”
As for the Yankees’ faith in Hicks, he’s sunk from the team’s future centerfielder to a salvage operation. “The uniform is heavy for him right now,” Boone said.
Barring some remarkable rebound, Hicks probably won’t be wearing one with navy pinstripes beyond this season.