Earlier in the offseason, despite the lockout, the New York Yankees managed to make headlines when they snuck in a fairly notable signing that was discovered after it was posted to the minor league transaction wire.
That addition was Ender Inciarte, who many baseball fans had forgotten about after the Atlanta Braves made their World Series run without him. He was released from the team in late July and hasn’t had a productive campaign since 2018.
But you know who else hasn’t been effective over that time span, too? Aaron Hicks. So you can bet the center field competition will be very real, and Inciarte, in speaking with the media for the first time since joining the team, made that a clear as day.
At the very least, if the Yankees have a rotation of healthy, capable players in center and left field, it’ll be a huge win after all the depth issues that befell them over the last couple of seasons.
Because Inciarte kind of fell off the face of the earth, it wasn’t exactly at the forefront of everyone’s minds that he’s still just 31 years old and won three straight Gold Gloves from 2016-2018.
If he can find a semblance of his former self and take advantage of being surrounded by some of the game’s best hitters, the Yankees lineup will be that much better given what he’s proven to be capable of.
Can Ender Inciarte make a big impact on the 2022 Yankees?
"“I definitely feel like I still can do great things. I still have a lot more to give.“I’m just going to try to be the guy that I was. I have no doubt in my mind that I’m going to go out there and people are going to see the best version of me.”"
On top of his once-electric glove that’s been affected by an injury-shortened 2019, the pandemic-shortened 2020, and a mess in 2021, Inciarte, in his best years, was able to hit for average, steal bases, and provide a little bit of pop while also limiting his strikeouts.
Though he’s hovered around league average in OPS+ throughout his career, the Yankees don’t need another slugger tearing the cover off the ball. They need someone who can cover ground in center field, make contact at the plate, and put pressure on the defense with speed on the base paths.
He brings a much different skill set to the table than Hicks, which might give him an advantage whenever spring training arrives. And since the two veterans are out to prove themselves after three years characterized by underperformance and injuries, you can bet this will be one of the most heated position battles when the lockout ends.