Hicks aims for Winter Ball as Yanks assess FA

November 16th, 2021

has expressed interest in playing Winter Ball this offseason as he recovers from left wrist surgery.

“He’s in position to do that,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “As a matter of fact, he sent me some video of him in the cage the other day swinging and he feels great. I think he looks great and we’ll just see where we are in the next few weeks about the final sign-off on that.”

The switch-hitting outfielder had season-ending surgery in May to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. Hicks batted .194/.294/.333 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 32 games.

The 32-year-old has four years and $40 million remaining on the contract extension that he signed before the 2019 season.

Hicks has played in only 145 games since inking that pact, and general manager Brian Cashman recently said that center field could be an area of interest this winter, in addition to shortstop. Starling Marte is widely regarded as the top free-agent center fielder on the open market.

“The biggest thing with Aaron right now is making sure he’s strong and healthy, in shape and ready to go,” Boone said. “If that’s the case, we know we have a really good player.”

Boone added that right-hander Jameson Taillon is recovering well from right ankle surgery and could be throwing from a mound in January or February, with a projected big league return sometime in April.

“His Spring Training will not be totally normal, but he’ll be building up in a fairly traditional way,” Boone said.

On the line
Boone said that he recently spoke with Anthony Rizzo, who is a free agent after playing 49 games with the Yankees this past season.

“I actually did talk to Anthony a few days ago, just touching base with him,” Boone said. “I think I’ve said how fond I am of Anthony and what Rizz brought to the table, but as far as the recruiting process, I would say that has not started to happen yet.”

First base is an area of uncertainty for the Yankees. Luke Voit earned $4.7 million this year and is eligible for arbitration, while DJ LeMahieu made 55 appearances at first base in 2021. The Yankees have also internally discussed a potential trade for A's slugger Matt Olson.

Open arms?
Boone made clear he does not foresee any clubhouse issues if the Yankees were to sign free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa. Cashman made similar comments last week when asked about Correa’s involvement in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

“He’s a great player,” Boone said. “I think he's obviously in the prime of his career, entering the prime of his career, even. He’s part of what is a very special shortstop class. I think he's a guy that has really developed into a leader over these last several seasons with the Astros and he’s going to be in high demand, for good reason.”

Boone said that he has not yet started the recruitment phase of free agency, when he’ll typically reach out to speak with players one-on-one.

“Anytime we're involved with a free agent of large significance that's going to attract a lot of years and dollars and things like that, we're all going to feel really good about it -- not only the player, but us as an organization as well,” Boone said.

Coaching staff update
The Yankees are “making really good progress” on filling out their coaching staff, Boone said. The club has yet to replace first-base coach Reggie Willits and hitting coaches Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere.

“We’ve interviewed a lot of people, so we’re getting close,” Boone said. “Hopefully we’ll have that wrapped up here in the next couple of weeks. There’s some really neat people in this game.”

Former big league third baseman Eric Chávez recently interviewed for one of the vacancies.