Currently, many things are going right for the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge leads the league in home runs while the Yankees pitching staff has been dominant. While the Bronx Bombers find themselves with the best record in baseball, there are a few areas the team can improve, especially in the outfield. Unfortunately, one area that complicates the Yankees’ trade deadline plans is Aaron Hicks‘ contract combined with his deteriorating play.
The Aaron Hicks" Contract
The Yankees originally acquired Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins, for catcher John Ryan Murphy, back in 2015. The Yankees viewed the struggling former first round pick as a buy-low candidate and a potential long-term answer in center field. After three very solid seasons, the Yankees decided it was time to lock up their center fielder.
The Aaron Hicks" contract extension happened in 2019, when the team inked him to a seven-year, $70 million extension. At the time, the contract was met with mixed reviews with detractors bemoaning the seven-year commitment to an oft injured player. Meanwhile, supporters pointed to the low annual average salary as giving flexibility to future Yankees" trade deadline plans.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, most of the 2019 season was a disappointment for Hicks and the Yankees. Hicks began the year on the injured list with a lower back strain and missed most of the season with a few injuries, including a right flexor strain in his right elbow. Hicks rushed off the injured list during the Yankees" playoff run and hit a dramatic home run off of Justin Verlander before the Yankees fell to the Astros in the ALCS. After the season, Hicks underwent Tommy John suregery.
2020 saw Hicks play most of the season and and posted his highest on-base percentage of his career. However, his defense took a noticeable decline as his arm strength failed to fully bounce back after his arm surgery. Meanwhile, Hicks was limited to only 32 games after undergoing surgery on his left wrist in May.
This year, Hicks has continued his downward spiral registering only 2 extra-base hits through his first 44 games of the season. With his noticeable defensive decline, the Yankees have been forced to move Aaron Judge to center while mainly shifting Hicks to left.
The Yankees" Trade Deadline Options
With the Bronx Bombers off to their best start since 1998, fans have been left to speculate on the plans for the Yankees" trade deadline. With Judge holding down center field, at least for this season, the options most closely linked have been left fielders to replace Hicks and the struggling Joey Gallo. Popular names have included the Royals" Andrew Benintendi, the Cubs" Ian Happ and even the Pirates" Bryan Reynolds.
However, one big dilemma complicating the Yankees" trade deadline plans is what to do with Aaron Hicks" contract. The New York roster is facing a bit of a logjam amongst position players with the team currently getting productive play out of Matt Carpenter and needing the defensive utility of Marwin Gonzalez. The team also has the speedy Tim Locastro and fan favorite Miguel Andujar waiting in triple-A.
In order to make a deal work, the Yankees will need to remove one player from their big league roster. The two most likely names are the current struggling outfielders, Hicks and Gallo.
Let"s Make a Deal
Between the two, Gallo is likely the easier to move. At 28, Gallo is the younger of the two players and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Perhaps the Yankees could trade him along with a prospect to either the Cubs or Kansas City. However, the Yankees might view Gallo as a better bounce back candidate.
Meanwhile, the team could look to get out of the Aaron Hicks" contract. While he still has 3-years left on his deal, worth a total of $30.5 million, the team could attract a trade partner by attaching a higher profile prospect or paying off some of the money owed to Hicks.
The final option, is the Yankees could look to DFA Hicks, but the team would owe him the money from the rest of the contract. With the recent hesitation from Yankee ownership to increase payroll, this option seems the least likely.
At some point, if the Bronx Bombers want to be serious World Series contenders, they can no longer afford for left field to be an offensive hole. While the deal made some sense at the time, it is becoming increasingly evident that the Aaron Hicks" contract is adversely impacting the Yankees everyday roster. Maybe he is just in a miserable slump to start the season and will turn it around by the end of July.
But if he can"t, the Yankees" trade deadline plans will need to find a way to either offload Hicks or Gallo and find an upgrade in left field.
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