Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks is expected to be the everyday starter in 2018, according to GM Brian Cashman. That raises the question, what is going to happen to Jacoby Ellsbury?
Despite playing in only 88 games with the Yankees in 2017, Aaron Hicks has shown that he is the best option in centerfield moving forward.
Hicks went on the DL twice last season with oblique injuries, one on his right side and one to his left. After recovering, Hicks played in each of the remaining regular season games and all 13 postseason contests.
As general manager Brian Cashman recently said, playing Hicks in the postseason is a direct message to the rest of the team.
Left field still belongs to 10-year veteran Brett Gardner and baring a position change, Aaron Judge will be patrolling right field. Which leaves centerfield to Hicks, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the bench.
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Obviously, a lot can happen between now and Opening Day, but this looks like the ideal scenario for Cashman and company.
The battle for centerfield is a tale of two very different players. In his 88 games with the Yankees in ’17, Hicks set career highs in most offensive categories. His .266/.372/.475 slash line, 15 home runs, 52 RBI, 54 runs scored and 18 doubles are all personal bests for Hicks in his brief five-year career.
His competitor, Jacoby Ellsbury, is headed in a much different direction.
Although Ellsbury appeared in 112 games, he put up far inferior numbers. Ellsbury too, spent time on the DL, albeit due to a concussion, which took him out of action for a month and allowed Hicks to shine.
The former MVP runner-up only hit seven home runs and drove in 39, while scoring a bleak 65 times. Each of those numbers is career lows for Ellsbury in a season in which he played over 110 games — which are eight of Ellsbury’s 11 career campaigns.
Going solely on statistics and productivity, Hicks is the easy choice for the centerfield job, and it looks like that’s what Cashman intends to do. The only thing plaguing the Yankees, by keeping Ellsbury on the bench, is the huge contract they signed him to — $153 million over seven years.
It certainly wasn’t money well spent and is eating up a large portion of the projected $189 million hard cap management has put on spending.
Hicks and Ellsbury are not a bad tag-team to mix and match based on matchups. The versatility of the switch-hitting Hicks gives the new manager great flexibility and should work accordingly. Ellsbury had his chance to be the center fielder for the Yankees, but he never lived up to expectations.