You ever notice how the players most Yankees fans choose to defend are the players who are most indefensible? Sometimes, it crops up explicitly; Twitter accounts will tout Aaron Hicks’ early-season walk rate, or cite Joey Gallo’s problems as if he’s playing at the same level he used to in Texas.
“You just don’t like power hitters who strike out, you dinosaur!” Nope. Texas Gallo would be fine. New York Gallo has a 67 OPS+ in a depressed offensive environment this year. You know how easy it is to have an above-average OPS+ if you have light-tower power in 2022?! They practically start you at 110 and dare you to plummet.
Sometimes, the defense is a bit subtler, and equally wrong-headed. Over the weekend, a few different accounts tried to direct fans’ ire in the direction of Anthony Rizzo, not by claiming Gallo/Hicks have been good, but just by trying to get the boos equally distributed. Any fan who’s watched the 2022 Yankees, though, knows that Rizzo’s bat single-handedly carried early April’s hot streak and, though slumping, his effortless scoops and first base defense have made him a worthwhile player during his current cold streak.
Gallo and Hicks? Both men look lost at the plate and terrified in the outfield. Gallo, a Gold Glove right fielder, has made a move to left field look like the Yankees shifted him to Zimbabwe to become a lion tamer. No wonder they’ve never made the natural move to center. Hicks, following wrist surgery and Tommy John, no longer has anything approximating his famous arm, so he struggles to make up for poor choices and incorrect routes.
Entering June, the two former stars have become anchors weighing on a Yankees lineup that will be missing Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson for the foreseeable future.
The rotation, though spectacular, cannot give superhuman efforts daily for the remainder of the season. And, when they falter, Hicks and Gallo … and Higashioka … and Kiner-Falefa … become a bit too much black hole to handle.
How can Yankees replace Joey Gallo, Aaron Hicks?
Hicks’ regression, though upsetting, makes near-total sense. The wrist injury he sustained can often be a power sap for aging players, and even though the 32-year-old is at the beginning of the curve, it’s completely reasonable that he’d lose bop. His “bad luck” on Sunday came after weeks of no luck at all; it was all close-eyed whiffs on heart-of-the-plate fastballs. For a fully-healthy Joey Gallo to be this poor in the prime of his career is mind-boggling, with no other answer beyond, “Perhaps the Yankees should consider it a sunk cost, ahead of free agency, and move on.”
The Padres were looking last year. The Padres will be looking again.
There are a few internal alternatives who provide different looks, though it would be unreasonable to rely on Estevan Florial, Tim Locastro, or even Brandon Lockridge for everyday reps. Ian Happ of the Cubs feels like the most “Yankee-ish” trade candidate on the market (potentially), and Brian Cashman may have to overpay to hop the line. 34-year-old Tommy Pham started off strong, but has regressed lately (.708 OPS), and acquiring him as a show-stopping solution would be a slap in the face. Mitch Haniger of the Mariners is likely out until July with a high-ankle sprain; he would’ve made sense, too, once upon a time.
Andrew Benintendi is the leader in the clubhouse to be acquired, but perhaps the Bombers will be concerned about all that time he spent in the other clubhouse.
This Yankees team is too talented and packed with too many arms to waste a start this hot. Neither Gallo nor Hicks should be in the playoff lineup, and either Happ or Benintendi should be starting in left field daily by July (and there’s no law that says Cashman can’t nab both).
Hell, even Brett Gardner would be a welcome (ducks tomato throw) addition.