The Tuesday Discussion: What To Do About CF?
What To Do About CF?
May 18, 2021
This week we asked our writers:
If Aaron Hicks is going to be out for the long-term, how should the Yankees address centerfield?
Here are their responses:
Paul Semendinger – This is difficult for many reasons. First, Brett Gardner seems to have aged out of any everyday role. We knew this day was coming. It’s here. Second, Aaron Judge is fragile. Playing center would jeopardize his health even more. Third, I do not believe the Yankees have a player in the system that is able or ready to take over the everyday duties in that prime position. As such, if the Yankees are serious about contending, they’re going to have to make a trade.
I decided to look at the teams that are already considered also-rans and see if I could find a centerfielder. (As I did this, I hoped to find one who bats left-handed with some power…)
I didn’t find much. The only players from 2021 also-rans who would add to the Yankees would be Byron Buxton, Mike Trout, or Cedric Mullins. Then there are the Cubs. Do they fancy themselves contenders?
What would it take for the Yankees to entice Baltimore to send Cedric Mullins to the Bronx? Is that even possible?
Is Byron Buxton available? He doesn’t check all the boxes, and his career, in many ways, reminds me of Aaron Hicks’. Would he be a net gain?
How about Ian Happ of the Cubs? Happ has not been great, but he’s versatile.
Aaron Hicks has had a very poor 2021. But, without a trade that would be so unlikely, he’s the best choice the Yankees have in center. If he’s injured, the next best bet, absent a very unlikely trade is Brett Gardner.
The Yankees find themselves having to rely on Brett Gardner as their everyday centerfielder.
Owen Hetherington – If Aaron Hicks is out for the long term, the solution WOULD have been Mike Tauchman. Heck, even if he wasn’t hurt I would still say Tauchman over Hicks. Tauchman being traded a few weeks ago presents an issue. I think the obvious move is to put Gardner in CF, Clint in LF, Judge in RF. If Odor comes back, I could see a situation where Wade possibly gets some reps in LF or RF. Sadly, it’s too early to consider Jasson Dominguez yet. There’s no trade situation that I see when the Yankees just gave up a stud in Mike Tauchman. Most importantly, I DO NOT want Giancarlo Stanton stepping foot in the outfield. Can’t happen, shouldn’t happen, won’t happen.
Patrick Gunn – The Yankees need to go out and find some outfield depth, plain and simple. You could’ve argued that the Yankees needed more center field depth at the start of the season, with Hicks declining, Brett Gardner in his late-30s, and Mike Tauchman coming off a poor 2020 and entering his 30s. Now, Tauchman is a Giant (which, to be fair, was a great move by Brian Cashman to net Wandy Peralta) and Hicks is hurt. Estevan Florial hit well to start the season but he’s only just entering Triple-A. Cashman should reach out to any seller this season to find a center fielder. David Dahl could give the Yankees help in the outfield and give the Yankees another solid left-handed bat from the corners (and the Yankees do develop former Rockies well). Maybe the Nationals would consider trading Victor Robles, a young outfielder who hasn’t hit well in the majors. David Peralta could hep the Bombers as a left-handed bat on a mediocre Diamondbacks team. Heck, maybe the Rockies move on from Charlie Blackman. Bottom line, the Yankees need outfield depth, even if Hicks can come back this season.
Chris O’Connor – On one hand, I would love to see Estevan Florial in there. Just 23 years old, he has the top-prospect pedigree and the raw tools and athleticism to play a very good centerfield for the Yankees. However, he only has 46 at bats above A-ball and only had three at bats in the majors in 2020 while spending much of the season at the alternate site.
I think that he needs more time to develop but if he continues his breakout year, I would love to see him in the big leagues sometime in 2021.
My dream scenario for center field, if Hicks is indeed out for the season, would be Joey Gallo. Gallo is under team control through 2022 and has long been a good outfielder who has shown the ability to play center. He also adds a much needed lefty power bat to the lineup with a swing that seems tailor-made for Yankee stadium. The Yankees outfield depth, which seemed so strong entering the year, has really taken a hit with Gardner and Frazier’s struggles, Hicks’ injury, and the Tauchman trade. While every team can use more pitching at the deadline, the Yankees pitchers have exceeded expectations while the bats have not been up to par. Another impact bat, specifically a lefty one, should be a priority for the team and Gallo would be a perfect fit for the Yankees both this year and next.
Ed Botti – My first thought would be to fill the spot from within. Having said that, there is not much from within the organization right now MLB ready. I know a lot of us out there were not sold on Mike Tauchman, but he was the depth piece over the winter.
Not to sound overly negative, but replacing Aaron Hicks and his .194 average should not be too difficult.
Estevan Florial needs more time, and it’s too early in the season for teams to start unloading players. So it will not be cheap. Everyone knows the Yankees need a centerfielder, but everyone has a price.
I would use this opportunity as time to not just fill in for Hicks for 2021, but to replace him going forward. So I am going to shoot for a big acquisition that solves more than one issue. Centerfield, Leadoff hitter, line up balance.
The player I have been watching for a couple of years now is Trent Grisham of the San Diego Padres. A lefty hitter who makes decent contact, has a nice OPS, has some power, can steal a few bases, and has already won a gold glove. At 24 years old, I would make the call, but the Padres are having a nice start to their season, so that would be a hard sell. But it is certainly worth a call. When Milwaukee made him available after the 2019 season, I was hoping the Yankees would look into him. He’s the type of player they really could use.
He won’t come cheap. Make the call!!
Other options, last season, Starling Marte was available and they could have easily acquired him as an upgrade, if not for the 7 year contract inexplicably given to Hicks by Cashman a couple of years back.
Marte is in the final year of a 6 year deal. Its possible Derek Jeter and Kim Ng would do their old friends a favor, shed some payroll and work out a deal with the Yankees.
Cameron Maybin is playing for the Iowa Cubs. He probably could be acquired.
Other than that, Ryan LaMarre has a .232 career average, and if he can catch the ball, he may just get a shot at more time in a platoon with Gardner. Hardly the optimal option.
Sorry, but there are not a lot of options right now. The time for this was last winter. If they knew Tauchman wasn’t in their future (and they must have because they traded him on April 27) , they should have prepared better, especially with Hicks’ history of injuries, and got some depth at that time.
Mike Whiteman – There are no good answers to the Yanks’ centerfield situation. Brett Gardner has been giving those who say he’s done ample “evidence” to back it up. Etevan Florial has about fifty plate appearances above A-ball, and a batting average under .200 in that playing time. Ryan LaMarre looks to be a weak stopgap.
It’s also a legitimate concern that if Hicks returns from the IL and avoids surgery the wrist could dog him throughout the season, and sap him of significant power.
There are no really good center fielders on the trade market at this time. If I’m Brian Csahman and Aaron Boone, I’m putting Gardner in centerfield every day (batting ninth!), expecting that he’ll field the position well, and help the offense a bit with his speed. Maybe, just maybe he can find the fountain of youth for the short term.
This has all the makings of a debacle, like when Neil Walker was roaming the Yankee outfield. Fans have a legitimate gripe about this position the team is in, and should question why there’s no good plan B knowing the brutal recent injury history of Yankee outfielders.
Andy Singer – If Aaron Hicks is really out for the long-term, I think the Yankees are going to have a tough time finding a suitable replacement. The bottom-line numbers for Hicks are ugly after a horrid start, but he was quietly turning it around before his recent injury woes. Over his last 28 days, Hicks hit .224/.338/.414, good for a 113 OPS+ during that timespan. Not only that, but Hicks’ trademark plate discipline had largely returned. Most importantly, the early metrics indicated that his defense in CF had bounced back somewhat, making him a roughly average defensive centerfielder. I know Hicks is unpopular among much of the fanbase, and I agree that batting Hicks 3rd was a less than ideal situation, but average or better combined with average defense in CF is a tough guy to replace from a value perspective.
As much as I love him, I have said multiple times that Gardy looks done, both watching his reactions and looking at the metrics. However, there is still a chance he proves me (and others) wrong in the long run. Gardy had two hard hits last night, but more importantly, he did something he rarely does: he attacked first-pitch fastballs. Not only did he attack them, but he caught up to them, which he really hadn’t done yet this year. There’s hope for Gardy yet, but I think he needs a platoon partner, at a minimum.
There are some interesting platoon options that could be available on the trade market. The Brewers are suddenly in need of some pitching, and Lorenzo Cain strikes me as someone who might thrive in a platoon role in CF with Gardy. Cain is a smart veteran with good plate discipline, and does a little bit of everything. The cost to acquire Cain shouldn’t be too painful, possibly just a low-level pitching prospect and an MLB-ready reliever or swingman. Something like that sounds about right moving forward.