NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees hardly finished the 2019 season before starting on their injured list for 2020.
Center fielder Aaron Hicks will have Tommy John surgery for a partially torn ligament in his throwing elbow and is expected to be out 8 to 10 months.
General manager Brian Cashman announced Thursday that Hicks would have the operation Oct. 30.
Cashman also announced that right-hander Masahiro Tanaka had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow to remove bone spurs Wednesday, and Luke Voit had surgery for bilateral core muscle injuries Thursday. Both players are expected to be ready for spring training.
Hicks injured his right elbow Aug. 3. He initially rested and rehabbed with hopes of returning late in the season, but eventually he was sent home to Phoenix with instructions to rest until doctors could evaluate him in the offseason. While playing around in the backyard, Hicks experimented tossing a ball, found the pain had subsided and pushed New York to let him return in the postseason.
He rejoined the team in the AL Championship Series against Houston and hit a home run in Game 5. After New York lost to the Astros in six games, the Yankees and Hicks agreed he should have the surgery this offseason rather than continue pushing the partially torn UCL.
“He played great in the postseason for us obviously,” Cashman said. “But once it ended, the feeling of, there’s something here that’s still not right, the follow-up doctor exam was, again, led to the ultimate decision we have to get this thing fixed or it’s just going to blow.”
After signing a $70 million, seven-year contract in the spring, Hicks injured his back early in spring training and didn’t play his first game until May 15. The 30-year-old switch-hitter batted .235 with 12 homers, 36 RBIs and a .769 OPS in 59 games.
New York placed a record 30 players on the injured list in 2019. The club won 103 regular-season games and earned the AL East title.
With Hicks set to miss much of the 2020 season, New York has more motivation to bring back veteran Brett Gardner. The 36-year-old Gardner hit a career-high 28 home runs and played solid defense in center with Hicks sidelined.
A career-long Yankee, Gardner is a potential free agent for the second consecutive offseason. He returned to New York last year on a $7.5 million, one-year contract.
Cashman wouldn’t commit to re-signing Gardner but praised his recent performance.
“I don’t think there’s any question about what his capabilities are,” Cashman said. “He had a tremendous season, both sides of the ball.”
Cashman doesn’t believe an ace pitcher would have been the difference for New York this postseason. He’d still love to acquire one, though.
He insists he’s been trying.
Two of the aces pitching in this year’s World Series could be available to the Yankees as free agents. Houston’s Gerrit Cole is set to hit free agency and could earn a record contract for a starting pitcher, surpassing the $217 million, seven-year deal David Price signed with Boston before the 2016 season.
Washington’s Stephen Strasburg might also be in play if he opts out of the remaining four seasons and $100 million left in his $175 million, seven-year deal.
“We’re always aggressive on trying to attack areas that need improvement,” Cashman said. “It just comes down to what’s available.”
Cashman ran through a list Thursday of pitchers he’s tried to acquire after a reporter suggested the club has “passed on” big-time starters.
There was an offer to free agent Patrick Corbin last winter, one Cashman says was narrowly topped by the Nationals.
Same result this season when the Yankees were outbid for lefty Dallas Keuchel by the Atlanta Braves.
And Cashman re-iterated that two years ago, the team made a bid to the Pirates for Cole.
“Houston made an offer that in Pittsburgh’s mind was a better offer than ours,” he said. “This is all ancient history, but these are all facts. That doesn’t mean we passed on anything. We made attempts.”
New York has tried to offset the lack of a Cy Young Award contender with a power bullpen. After Cole and the Astros advanced to the World Series, New York’s relievers said they were worn down and overexposed during the ALCS.
Yankees pitchers had a 3.13 ERA in the series, though. The bigger issue to Cashman: New York’s hitters were 6 for 35 with runners in scoring position.
“Pitching’s not what cost us that series with the Astros,” he said. “At least that’s my opinion.”
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