The New York Yankees started the 2022 MLB season on an absolute tear, dominating throughout the opening months of the campaign. After setting a 120-win pace for themselves out the gate, the Yankees have fallen back down to earth. Since July 3, the Yankees are 11-18 and just got swept for the first time all season in a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Currently in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Yankees still hold a comfortable lead in the AL East, but the team's recent struggles haven't gone unnoticed, and they no longer appear to be the powerhouse they were in April, May, and June. The lineup has cooled off tremendously, apart from DJ LeMahieu and AL MVP favorite Aaron Judge, and both the starting rotation and the bullpen are performing vastly worse than they were at the onset of the season.
The Yankees still figure to cruise to the playoffs and certainly have the talent to contend for a World Series. But they can't simply let their struggles continue to build up. There are a few changes Aaron Boone and Co. can make in order to help the Yankees snap their cold streak, and the team should absolutely be exploring all options now that the trade deadline has come and passed.
With all that in mind, here are three changes the Yankees can make to put a stop to their midseason free fall.
3 changes Yankees must make to snap midseason slump
3. Bench Aaron Hicks
Aaron Hicks has been nothing short of a disaster in 2022. Outside of a couple of solid weeks, Hicks has arguably been the worst player on the Yankees not named Joey Gallo, who was shipped out at the trade deadline. Across 95 games this season, Hicks is slashing just .218/.340/.313 with 6 home runs, 31 RBI, and 74 strikeouts. He has grounded into 8 double plays this season and has a dismal OPS+ of 90. It feels like every time Hicks comes up in a big spot, he's a guaranteed out.
That lack of production simply cannot be in the starting lineup come the postseason. Hicks offers virtually no power at the plate, and his only redeeming quality in the batter's box is his ability to draw walks. After acquiring Harrison Bader and Andrew Benintendi, a fully healthy Yankees team should not have Aaron Hicks in the starting lineup. It's clear he's the odd man out, and while they may need to wait until Giancarlo Stanton returns from IL, the Yankees need to face the reality of the situation and stick Hicks on the bench.
2. Roll with a committee at closer
Just about everything seems to be falling apart for the Yankees right about now, but the bullpen may be their most glaring issue. Despite adding Scott Effross and Lou Trivino, the Yankees bullpen has struggled to regain the form they displayed earlier in the season.
Clay Holmes and his trademark sinker seem lost at the moment, while Jonathan Loaisiga's stellar 2021 season feels like fiction when comparing it to the 2022 version of himself. Aroldis Chapman has been far from convincing throughout the season, and the loss of Michael King is feeling more impactful than ever.
Right now, there's not a single reliever who should be handling the closing duties. While Holmes is still the top guy in the bullpen, he struggled tremendously in July, logging a 7.00 ERA across 9.0 innings in the month. With the All-Star reliever not looking nearly as sharp, the Yankees need to open up closing duties and take the approach of a committee in order to close out games. Playing the matchup game could prove to be more fruitful for the Yankees than handing the ball to a struggling reliever in high-leverage situations.
1. Promote Oswald Peraza
Oswald Peraza has proven he's ready for a big-league call-up, and there's really no reason the Yankees are dragging their feet. Isiah Kiner-Falefa offers below replacement level fielding and has yet to hit a home run in 2022. The frequency with which Kiner-Falefa botches routine groundballs has frustrated Yankees fans beyond belief, only adding to the belief that Peraza is overdue for a debut in the Bronx.
Peraza has hit 15 home runs at Triple-A this season and is playing solid defense. With Josh Donaldson holding things down in the hot corner (defensively, at least), the Yankees could do wonders for their defense by bringing Peraza up to the show and putting Kiner-Falefa in a bench role.
The acquisition of Bader was a defense-first move, and the Yankees need to follow that up by addressing the glaring need in the infield. With Peraza waiting in the wings, keeping Kiner-Falefa in an everyday role is a puzzling decision, and a change at shortstop feels like its just a matter of time.