Let’s get the hard truth out in the very first paragraph: if the New York Yankees want to replace Aaron Hicks this offseason instead of welcoming him back, it’s going to be difficult.
They’re going to need to get uncomfortable. It’s going to cost significant money or a hefty prospect package. There is no in-between. And yes, that makes it unlikely they’ll do anything at all, instead dipping into their Triple-A depth in Greg Allen and the not-ready-for-primetime Estevan Florial whenever Hicks goes down with an injury (early May?).
Less than ideal, but at least it’s predictable.
Let’s live fancifully for a bit, though. Let’s figure out how the Yankees can go for a higher upside play in center instead of simply hoping the high-OBP Hicks finds his power stroke again.
Further complicating this process? The free agent market is … less than stellar. Imagine a stellar free agent market with tons of options in a Yankees area of need! What a hilarious fantasy to have! Every year, there’s either one extremely expensive crown jewel who the Yanks are forced to drop their entire budget on (Gerrit Cole), or there’s nothing at all.
This year, there’s a similar obvious solution available for money alone — not quite in the Cole contract territory, but certainly a level above what we think the Yankees want to spend, especially since we’re fairly confident they’re about to commit several years to a shortstop of the future (potentially a third baseman of the immediate future).
We’ll start with the obvious free agent fit — not just because it’s the clearest option, but also because it’s probably the most appealing.
These 3 center fielders could replace Aaron Hicks on the 2022 Yankees
3. Starling Marte
The one saving grace that might bring Starling Marte’s price down slightly is his age: 33, and he won’t turn 34 until the 2022 postseason.
Also, we know for a fact his old team will not be reaching back out — the Oakland A’s will be shopping at local grocery stores in hopes of finding 43-year-old rookies like Dennis Quaid instead this offseason.
Marte is coming off a bargain-basement extension signed with Pittsburgh at a young age (eight years and $53 million inked prior to 2014), and he’ll be surpassing that total dollar amount in three or four years on this next deal. Perhaps he ends up around three years, $60 million? Maybe he prefers the security of four years at $75 million for a slightly lower AAV? Regardless, he’ll be about double Hicks’ cost, and would require the Yankees to try to move off their current center fielder and get a team like the Phillies or Marlins to pay a portion of his contract.
Our view? Hey, whatever it takes. Marte would be a legitimate game-changer in the Bronx coming off a season where he socked just 12 homers in 120 games, but stole 47 bases (25 in the second half in Oakland!) and hit .308 with a .381 OBP.
Marte is a monster and speed demon with 20-homer pop (at least) who rarely swings and misses (99 Ks last year!). He’d be a perfect fit in pinstripes, and the match doesn’t even need to be dissected any further. It’s simply a matter of who else is interested and what maneuvers the Yankees need to lean into to make this happen. We’d go four years if that’s what it takes.