Brian Cashman hints Yankees may be in hunt for center fielder

CARLSBAD, Calif. — There’s a gaping hole at shortstop, a question at catcher and everyone always needs pitching, even if the Yankees might require less of it than usual.

And Brian Cashman dropped an extra area of curiosity for the Yankees on Tuesday, one that reflects the organization’s feelings about Aaron Hicks.

“Obviously looking at shortstop,” Cashman said at the general managers’ meetings, “maybe center field.”

Hicks has suffered multiple serious injuries after signing a seven-year, $70million extension prior to 2019. He played in 32 games last year before succumbing to a torn tendon sheath at his left wrist.

The 32-year-old has four years left on his contract and is worth more than $40million. However, he registered negative metrics in defense.

Aaron Hicks and Starlin Marte
Starlin Marte and Aaron Hicks
Corey Sipkin; AP

“He’s going to finish off his rehab and he very well might be our starting center fielder. I’m going to be open-minded in evaluating all opportunities,” Cashman said of Hicks. “We just want to make sure we put our best team out there. There are no guarantees for anyone at the moment. There are certain exceptions. But Aaron Hicks was hurt, so he’s been off the board. He may be able to play in winter ball. We’ll see. We’ll see. However, the injury to his knee in the middle field made it a concern for this team.

“We’ll explore whatever options might be available to us and obviously we do have Aaron Hicks coming back. What that looks like, we’ll see.”

The top free-agent center field option is Starling Marte, 33, who enjoyed a strong 2021 season with the Marlins and A’s.

The man who started the most games in center field for the ’21 Yankees, Brett Gardner (124 including the American League wild-card game), is a free agent, and while Cashman saluted the 14-year veteran for being a great Yankees, he said the club hadn’t discussed the possibility of bringing back the 38-year-old.

Hicks could take over the role of fourth outfielder from Gardner if the Yankees do not find another center-fielder.

Aaron Judge proved himself to a skilled center fielder last year, Joey Gallo played the position in past seasons, and Cashman stated that the Yankees would build their 2022 team with the idea Giancarlo Ston could regularly contribute as an outfielder as he did at close of last season.

As for another outfielder, Clint Frazier, who missed the season’s final three months due to dizziness, “I think there’s a lot of expectation and optimism that what transpired will not be an issue as he enters next season,” said Cashman, who declined to offer more specifics.

Cashman said that Frazier is involved in baseball activities at his Georgia home.

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