The Yankees kept their season alive this evening, knocking off the Guardians 5-1 to take their Division Series in five games. They advance to the AL Championship Series to take on the reigning pennant winners in Houston, starting tomorrow.
While New York is obviously happy to advance, they didn’t come out of today’s contest completely unscathed. Left fielder Aaron Hicks was knocked out of the game in the top of the third after colliding with shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera in pursuit of a shallow fly ball off the bat of Steven Kwan. Hicks left the field with just slight assistance from skipper Aaron Boone, but he suffered a left knee injury that’ll end his playoffs. After the game, Hicks told reporters he’ll need around six weeks to recover (via Pete Caldera of the Bergen Record). Specifics of the injury aren’t clear, but the Yankees announced he was headed for an MRI.
It’s the conclusion of what has been a disappointing season altogether for Hicks. The 33-year-old hit .216 / .330 / .313 across 453 regular season plate appearances, his second straight below-average campaign. Hicks had been one of the game’s better center fielders from 2017-20, but he’s seen his power production take a sharp downward turn over the last two years. He also got subpar marks for his defense in center field, leading the Yankees to turn to Aaron Judge quite a bit more up the middle than they had in prior years before acquiring Harrison Bader from the Cardinals at the trade deadline.
Hicks was on the bench for the first three games of the Division Series, but he did draw into the lineup for the final two contests. He started in left field for both Game 4 and 5, going hitless with a walk in four plate appearances out of the nine-hole. Cabrera, who’d been the left fielder for the first three games of the series, moved up to shortstop for the final two contests. That pushed Isiah Kiner-Falefa out of the lineup after some defensive miscues in Game 3.
With Hicks out, the Yankees could move Cabrera back to left field and pencil Kiner-Falefa back in at short. They also have Matt Carpenter as a corner outfield option, although Boone indicated before the ALDS he preferred to keep Carpenter as a bench bat during his first action back after a two-month absence due to a foot fracture. Utilityman Marwin González drew an at-bat in relief of Hicks this evening, but the Yankees aren’t likely to give him a playoff start after a .185 / .255 / .321 showing in the regular season. Designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton is also a possibility to assume some left field work, although it’s not clear whether the Yankees would run the risk of him playing defense for the first time since mid-July.
The Yankees acquired Andrew Benintendi from the Royals to solidify left field, but he’s been out since early September surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone in his right wrist. Boone indicated after tonight’s win he doesn’t anticipate Benintendi being active for the ALCS (via Andy Martino of SNY). The Yankees will have to formally announce their ALCS roster tomorrow, but it seems they’ll have to make due with their in-house outfield options against Houston.
It doesn’t seem likely Hicks’ injury will significantly affect his offseason routine. He’s under contract through 2025 and will presumably get a chance to compete for a starting job next spring, as the Yankees will have a hard time shedding any notable chunk of the $ 29.5MM that remains on his contract di lui.