The Yankees sent outfielder Mike Tauchman to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Sunday’s game in anticipation of the return of center fielder Aaron Hicks.
The Yankees also placed RHP Jonathan Loaisiga on the 10-day I.L. (retroactive to 5/10) with a right shoulder strain, and recalled RHP Chance Adams (#35) from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Tauchman was a big reason the Yankees are where they are right now, at 24-16, just a half-game behind Tampa Bay for first place in the American League East.
In 32 games, Tauchman was primarily used as a left fielder and he hit .213 with a .314 on-base percentage, as he had four home runs and 12 RBI, with 13 walks and struck out 31 times.
The Yankees outfield will now include Hicks, who hit .248 with 27 home runs and 79 RBI last season; Brett Gardner (.204, 6 HR, 15 RBI), Clint Frazier (.290, 6 HR, 18 RBI), and Cameron Maybin, who has been phenomenal since he was acquired on April 25, hitting .297 (11-37) and has a .422 on-base percentage when you throw in his eight walks.
Hicks signed a seven-year, $70 million deal on February 25, and right after that, he suffered the back issues which have kept him out for over two months.
Hicks, 29, joined the Yankees in 2016 and he had a breakout season last year, as he had 27 home runs and 79 RBI with a .248 (119-for-480) average, with 90 runs scored, 18 doubles, 3 triples, 27 home runs, 79 RBI, 90 walks and 11 stolen bases in 137 games, including 129 starts in CF, 2 at DH. He set career highs in runs scored, hits, home runs, extra-base hits (48), RBI and walks, as well as WAR (4.9, FanGraphs), which placed him third among all centerfielders. He was fifth in the Majors (min. 500 plate appearances) with a 15.5% walk rate and his 20.9% chase rate was seventh-lowest. He also drew 49 walks after the All-Star break, tied for the most in the American League.
Like the Yankees’ signing of pitcher Luis Severino (a 19-game winner last season) on February 15, this is a very prudent move. An average of $10-million per season in this era is very fair for players that produce the way they do, and it’s good for Severino and Hicks as well because they are getting significant upgrades in salary before they can hit free agency. In Severino’s case, he was looking at an arbitration deal of around $5 million for this season, and Hicks agreed to a one-year deal just ahead of the arbitration period.
Hicks is one of the most disciplines hitters in baseball. Over the last two seasons (2017-18), Hicks has posted a .838 OPS with a .368 on-base percentage and is one of just eight American League players over the stretch to reach both of those marks with at least 200 games played, along with Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman, Aaron Judge, J.D. Martinez, José Ramirez and Mike Trout.
Among Major League outfielders over the last two seasons , his 8.2 WAR (FanGraphs) ranks 12th, including sixth among centerfielders.
Only two other Major League switch-hitters in 2018 hit as many as Hicks’ 27 home runs (Cleveland’s José Ramirez-39 and Francisco Lindor-38), and his total was the highest by a switch-hitting centerfielder (min. half of games at the position) since Carlos Beltrán hit 27 home runs in 2008.
Hicks also became the seventh switch-hitter in Yankees history to reach 25 home runs in a season, joining Mickey Mantle (10 times), Bernie Williams (5), Mark Teixeira (4), Tom Tresh (3), Jorge Posada (2) and Nick Swisher (2). He excelled from both sides of the plate, compiling a 132 wRC+ as a left-handed batter and a 116 mark as a right-handed batter (weighted runs created plus; 100 is league-average).
Hicks was the fourth centerfielder (minimum half of his games at the position) in American League history to post a season with at least 25 home runs and a walk rate of 15.0% or better, joining Mickey Mantle (9 times), Mike Trout (4) and Larry Doby (2).
Hicks hit two inside-the-park homers in 2018 (April 13 at Detroit and May 19 at Kansas City), to become to first Yankee since Mickey Mantle (three in 1958) to have more than one in a single season. Then on July 1 vs. Boston, he became the 21st Yankee and first leadoff hitter in franchise history to hit at least three home runs in a regular season game, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, two solo home runs and a walk in an 11-1 victory.
Over six Major League seasons, including his first three with Minnesota (2013-15), Hicks owns a .236 (454-for-1,927) batting average with 283 runs scored, 79 doubles, 10 triples, 70 home runs, 240 RBI, 265 walks, 50 stolen bases, a .328 on-base percentage and a .724 OPS in 595 career games.
Hicks is also excellent defensively, and it didn’t take long for the Yankees to find that out. On April 20, 2016, his first month of the team, he threw a rocket to erase Oakland’s Danny Valencia at home plate, which was clocked at 105.5 mph, and remains the Statcast-era record for the fastest throw on a Major League field.
A native of California, he was originally selected by Minnesota in the first round (14th pick overall) of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and was acquired by the Yankees in exchange for C John Ryan Murphy on November 11, 2015.