5 free agent options Yankees could target for center field once MLB lockout ends

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  • New York Yankees
    New York Yankees
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Aaron Hicks
    Aaron Hicks
    Baseball player from the United States
  • Ender Inciarte
    Ender Inciarte
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  • Odúbel Herrera
    Odúbel Herrera
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Odubel Herrera points finger in powder blue jersey
Odubel Herrera points finger in powder blue jersey

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that center field would be an area of intrigue in free agency for his roster.

Aaron Hicks is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and while Ender Inciarte signed a minor league deal, his offensive numbers shouldn't have him competing for a starting role.

Make no mistake: The Yanks would love if Hicks returns and plays like he did in 2018, slashing .248/.366/.467 with 27 homers and 79 RBI. But since that season, injuries just haven't allowed him to be that player. Hicks is also under contract for the next five years, with a club option for 2026, meaning the Yanks don't want to have a smaller Jacoby Ellsbury situation on their hands.

Nevertheless, he's going to need some better competition than Inciarte in spring training, so who is that going to be? Starling Marte would've been the best option had the Mets not signed him.

There are still options out there for the Bombers to consider. Here are the five best:

Odubel Herrera

There is Herrera's past that needs to be considered, though. He served a domestic violence suspension, missing a large portion of the 2019 season and all of the 2020 season. Since the Yanks are no strangers to that subject unfortunately, optics of signing him may not be good.

Herrera bounced around the outfield in his time with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2021, but his primary outfield spot is manning center. And he's a pretty good one at that.

Herrera posted plus-2 defensive runs saved during the 2021 campaign with the Phils, as he has a solid arm paired with fast legs and a good first step to react quickly to hits.

And Herrera shouldn't be a liability in the box, either. He has an interesting gather from the left side of the plate -- he's known for a big leg kick/arm movement combo -- but gets the job done. He slashed .260/.310/.415 with 13 homers and 51 RBI in 124 games last season.

He's the best guy on the market for the Yanks if they're looking for a genuine starter.

Billy Hamilton

Speed kills on the basepaths, but they really don't have it. The Yanks normally go with their slugging bats, though Brett Gardner would provide the wheels every now and again to pick up an extra bag. Even Tyler Wade would come on as a pinch-runner and take a couple bags with him.

Well, the Yanks don't have either of them for the 2022 season. If they're looking for someone with that skill set who can also play center field, look no further than one of the fastest to ever play in the bigs in Hamilton.

He spent his 2021 season with the Chicago White Sox, hitting .220/.242/.378 -- not great in the slightest offensively. But defensively, he had a plus-2 defensive runs saved while mainly being a bench player.

If the Yanks can just get him on base more often, he could be a very valuable asset due to his speed and ability to track down virtually anything a hitter launches his way. He also had a stint with the Mets in 2020, so he knows New York, too.

Jake Marisnick

The next three players are already accustomed to New York having played for the Mets as well. Marisnick's time in Queens was short (16 games), but he did hit .333 with three doubles and two homers in 34 plate appearances during the shortened 2020 season.

He split time between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres in 2021, slashing .216/.286/.375. So, as you'd expect, defense is where he specializes.

Marisnick plays a very sound center field and can play elsewhere. But, like Hamilton, you wouldn't necessarily consider him a bonafide starter. Hicks should beat him out, but he's a very solid backup.

Kevin Pillar

If the Yanks want someone who has a tremendous amount of heart and will do whatever the team needs, Pillar is that guy.

The baseball world saw what he did last season with the Mets after taking a fastball to the face. If you didn't, he wanted to work out the next day at the team facility. Classic Pillar.

He's 33 and may have lost a step, but Pillar still plays a solid center and can have sneaky pop in his bat.

Sep 3, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets left fielder Kevin Pillar (11) hits a two RBI double against the Washington Nationals during the tenth inning at Nationals Park.
Sep 3, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Mets left fielder Kevin Pillar (11) hits a two RBI double against the Washington Nationals during the tenth inning at Nationals Park.

Juan Lagares

Last but not least, Lagares is someone who is going to walk up to the plate and swing the bat. He rarely walks because he wants to make an impact right away, which explains the .266 on-base percentage.

But a cheap option to back up Hicks in center field, as you can tell from previously named players, might be the best way to go now.

Lagares spent his first eight seasons in the bigs with the Mets before joining the Los Angeles Angels in 2021.