Gerrit Cole recently said the struggling Yankees needed “a spark,” and it may be coming. Bob Klapisch of NJ.com reported that outfield prospect Estevan Florial will be promoted to the majors tomorrow.
And honestly, why not? Hicks has basically become the Yankees’ new Joey Gallo. Instead of being an automatic strikeout, he’s just an automatic out with the occasional walk and chronic ugly swing. And all at the cost of $10.5 million this year and $29.5 million over the next three.
This is why Florial’s promotion isn’t so much about him, but general manager Brian Cashman. For years, Cashman has kept prospects down on the farm in development limbo despite clear needs on the MLB roster. At the same time, he doesn’t trade them for established names on the market even though such a move could help the Yankees.
In fairness to Cashman, he broke form at this year’s deadline, and hard. Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski were traded in the midst of breakout seasons. Cashman also allegedly offered up No. 1 prospect Jasson Dominguez for pitcher Luis Castillo, who the Reds eventually traded to Seattle.
Now Florial gets yet another chance to prove he can hack it in the bigs after seemingly owning the minors. Early returns aren’t promising. He’s hit just .206 with a home run and two RBI in 16 games scattered over three seasons. Florial’s strikeout rate at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is also an abysmal 30.8%. He has just as much chance of being Gallo as he does Roberto Kelly.
But such is the state of the Yankees right now. Aaron Hicks is a complete liability with both his bat and glove and isn’t going to get any better. His extension was a mistake and the reason for it in the first place was finally here. At the time, Hicks got what seemed like a perfectly reasonable and tradeable contract. Once Florial was ready, Cashman would find a way to move Hicks and what remained on his deal.
Well, the day is here and Florial is ready. The only difference is Hicks won’t net notable talent in any trade. At this rate, Cashman should just bow his head and trade him for dinner at Catch Steak and agree to cover the remaining money.
As for Florial, his job is easy. He just has to look better than Hicks by comparison. Even without desired results and more strikeouts, he should at least put the ball in play more effectively. Remember, Andrew Benintendi succeeded Gallo and is batting just .211 as a Yankee, and is still a better man to have despite the Yankees’ rough month.
And if Florial is a bust, then the Yankees are basically out of luck. Cashman, Boone, and the staff would be gambling that Harrison Bader comes back healthy and suddenly becomes a force with the bat like he is in the field. That’s a big, big gamble even if Bader is an elite glove.
It all means that when push comes to shove, all eyes are on Cashman. He’s probably kept Florial around longer than he should have and must prove it was the right decision.
Of course, Hicks will still be on the team in case Florial’s production falls well short. Plus, it sounds like Florial is coming up because Clay Holmes’ back is landing him on the injured list.
Cashman is almost in a lose-lose situation. At best, Florial sparks the Yankees, forms a solid center field tandem with a healthy Bader, and Hicks gets quietly benched before being traded for nothing come winter.
At worst, Florial struggles just as much as Hicks, and Cashman suddenly has two low-value outfielders to unload this winter. Furthermore, we may need to wonder if his way really, truly is the Yankee Way.