Aaron Hicks’ potential return and uneven fit on the Yankees’ postseason roster

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In words completely foreign to Yankee fans even 90 days ago, Aaron Hicks’ return complicates the Bombers’ lineup and roster choices, and there simply might not be room for him.

For those who missed it, Hicks surprisingly stated that he’s ready to return for the ALCS. The center fielder has been out since Aug. 3 with a right flexor strain and will likely avoid Tommy John surgery, but reports initially cast doubt on his ability to return for the postseason.

Now, after missing a postseason round, Hicks could be back. As part of the taxi squad in Tampa, Hicks has reportedly faced live pitching and been making throws.

The problem for Hicks is that the Yankees are rolling and have settled upon a starting nine, one that features Giancarlo Stanton in left field, Brett Gardner in center and Edwin Encarnacion as the designated hitter. If Hicks came back to the lineup, it would necessitate moving one of those three to the bench.

This is absolutely getting ahead of matters at hand. While Hicks believes he’s ready to go, the Yankees haven’t intimated as such. Neither Aaron Boone nor the New York brass have mentioned Hicks as likely to return soon.

The 30-year-old center fielder has had an undeniably rough season on the field. Hicks was limited to just 59 games and 255 plate appearances this season. He had his moments, particularly once he was further removed from his preseason back injury, yet he posted a league-average batting line (103 OPS+, 102 wRC+, 100 DRC+). He’s now been away from the team for the stretch run and a victorious postseason round.

Hicks is at the disadvantage of needing to get two swings in order as a switch-hitter. Furthermore, he doesn’t have Minor League rehab games, nor the comfort of coming into less meaningful Major League games. If he returned to the roster, any game he entered would be of the highest stakes possible. We’ve seen an equivalent situation with Kyle Schwarber in the 2016 World Series, but that’s one of few, if any, comparables.

If healthy, Hicks would improve the Yankees’ outfield by shifting Gardner to left field. That could make him a better fourth outfielder/defensive replacement than Cameron Maybin, though Maybin is healthy and has a home run in the postseason. Taking him off the roster for Hicks would be painful. The Bombers could also remove Luke Voit or Tyler Wade to carry Hicks.

Still, as wild as it sounds, removing Gardner from center, let alone the starting lineup, for Hicks at this stage would be a mistake. Hicks could serve a role on the postseason roster if he’s truly healthy, but his spot in the starting lineup for the rest of 2019 is far from assured.

Just four months ago, we speculated how the Yankees’ Death Star lineup would work and whether Maybin would retain a roster spot as the team got healthy. Gardner and Gio Urshela were both ticketed for bench roles.

Hicks now is the one on the outside looking in. That’s uncomfortable to say about the outfielder who was extended through 2025 before the season, but it’s true for the time being and Hicks’ window to contribute is limited as the ALCS approaches.


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  1. JG (Ben Francisco)

    If Hicks is good to go I’d put him in for Wade. Wade just isn’t very useful right now and Hicks/Maybin can serve as pinch runners if needed.

    Voit (or Ford) are needed as the backup infielder in case of injury, someone going ice cold, or if they don’t want to start Didi against Snell. In an emergency you don’t wanna have to put in Wade or lose the DH by moving EE to 1B.

    You can make a good case for Hicks over Maybin as the 4th OF but Maybin has been so good so it’s hard for me to take him out. I’d rather have both, if possible.

  2. Azzef Kram

    Hicks as a starter is a non-starter. Hicks as a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement for either Maybin or Voit is probably a pretty good call.

  3. The only role Hicks could take on this roster right now would be the Maybin role- as a late innings defensive replacement for Stanton, slide Gardner to LF and Hicks take over in center. But even still there’s a HUGE difference between “facing live pitching” in Tampa and facing the Rays’/Astros’ rotation.

    Love love love Hicks man, but at this point, unless someone gets hurt (knock on wood), the Yankees cannot realistically put him on the postseason roster.

  4. Jay

    Voit serves no purpose on the LCS roster outside of injury replacement 1B…if all he’s there for is pinch hitting (pinch running and defensive replacement isn’t happening), give me Hicks and his LH bat (limited exposure the 2nd 1/2 of the season understood; potentially run into a short porch cheapie maybe?) glove and wheels.

    LCS bench: Hicks, Romine, Wade, Maybin

    • Your A Looser Trade FotD

      This. And it’s so obvious that’s it’s bizarre the post didn’t mention it. Voit as the 25th man is useless. His bat is cold, and he’s slow. Further, we have a backup 1B on the roster already in EE in case LeMahieu is elsewhere in the field. Hicks as a 25th man is potentially extremely useful. And this from a guy who loves Voit.

      To me it’s an easy choice if Hicks is in fact ready. Put him on the bench in place of Voit.

      • Bill Toncic Jr

        EE can’t be your backup 1B if he’s DHing unless they want to lose the DH. Romine & to a lesser degree,Urshela could be a backup. But, Hicks replacing Voit as the 4th OFer is a no brainer to me. Much better glove than Maybin & gives you a LH bat w/power on the bench!

      • JG (Ben Francisco)

        If any of the infielders go down or go ice cold then you need Voit (or Ford).

  5. Chris

    I would use Hicks as the 4th outfielder / defensive replacement. We wouldn’t have to worry about getting his timing right as we could just use his stellar defense as a late-inning Stanton replacement.

    • Steven Tydings

      That’s fair. You then may have to be more selective in when you use the defensive replacement because Cameron Maybin has multiple at-bats this postseason after taking over for Stanton. You have to trust whomever you place in the lineup can hit.

      But yes, I’d love Hicksy as the fourth outfielder.

    • Shane0

      I am in favor of both Maybin and Hicks making the roster as bench players. Sorry Voit.

      If Hicks can truly throw the ball like we know he can, would love to see him replace Gardner in a tight ball game.

      BUT, this is all contingent on the amount of pitchers the Yankees choose to carry. There’s a good bet Voit is out in favor of CC anyways.

      • Shane0

        On second thought, although a healthy Hicks is the best defensive outfielder. Having two possible defensive replacements is overkill.

        Leave Hicks off the roster.
        Add CC to replace Voit.

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