Brian Cashman hints Yankees may be in hunt for center fielder

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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, who has suffered multiple serious injuries since signing a seven-year, $70 million extension prior to the 2019 season, played in just 32 games last season before going down due to a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist.

The 32-year-old, who has four years and over $40 million remaining on his contract, slashed a mere .194/.294/.333 while registering negative metrics on defense.

Aaron Hicks and Starlin Marte
Aaron Hicks and Starlin Marte
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. So no guarantees right now for anybody. Certainly some more than others. But Aaron Hicks was hurt, so he’s been off the board. He might play some winter ball. We’ll see. But in the meantime, center field was an area of concern this past year because of his injury.

“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.

If the Yankees did find another center fielder, Hicks could inherit the fourth-outfielder role the Yankees always envisioned for Gardner that never actually happened thanks to other outfielders, including Hicks, suffering injuries as Gardner stayed upright.

Aaron Judge proved himself to be an adept center fielder last season, Joey Gallo has played the position in the past and Cashman said the Yankees would put together their 2022 club with the idea that Giancarlo Stanton could contribute regularly as an outfielder, as he did at the 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.

Frazier is doing baseball activities around his Georgia home, Cashman added.

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