With New York Yankees’ fourth outfielder Aaron Hicks is possibly out for the year with a strained hamstring, let’s revisit the deal that brought him to the Bronx.
Last offseason, the New York Yankees structured a deal with the Minnesota Twins on November 11, 2015, that involved the swap of backup catcher John Ryan Murphy and Aaron Hicks
At first, general manager Brian Cashman brought a much needed switch-hitting outfielder competent of playing all three outfield positions — at an elite level — to New York.
What the Yankees were hoping to get was a more cost-effective version of Chris Young, who was the fourth outfielder for New York the year prior when he slugged seven home runs and batted .327 against lefties.
In the offseason, Young shipped up to Boston for $6.5 million but the Yankees’ brand-new replacement for him is making $574,000 this season and batted .307 with six homers against southpaws for the Twins a year ago.
While his numbers versus lefties weren’t quite as superior as Young’s were, his glove is practically golden as his defensive runs saved above average is currently listed at five — much greater than the -3 Young produced in the Bronx.
Dealing Murphy was unfortunate, as his character was profoundly acclaimed in the Yankees’ clubhouse, but with the imminent arrival of Gary Sanchez, they decided to ship a backup catcher for an outfielder with the utmost upside.
Seeing what Murphy has become with the Twins, Cashman assure himself that he, in fact, got the better of this deal.
To contradict that point for a second, this trade truly looked gruesome for both sides during the first several months of the season.
For Murphy, he played in a mere 11 games throughout April and through the inception of May and slashed a pitiful .075/.119/.100 with seven strikeouts compared to three hits in 44 plate appearances.
The former Yankee spent most of the season in Triple-A Rochester where he has only hit .236 in 83 games. Runners also succeeded in 38 of the 48 steal attempt in the minors which is seven percent lower than what his caught stealing percentage was with New York in 2015.
Unfortunately, the 25-year old backstop hit a brick wall since leaving the big apple, but what about his return?
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Hicks came to the Bronx and stunned everyone off the bat — with his defense. Remember his Statcast record-setting 105-MPH throw from left field? If only every part of his augmentation was that astonishing.
In his first 87 games as a Yankee, Hicks slashed an abysmal .185/.249/.284 with a disappointing OPS of .533. He also struck out 45 times compared to just 39 hits as fans started to wonder why he was even getting at-bats.
Then, from the time New York decided to ship Carlos Beltran during the deadline firesale, the light went on for Hicks as he started to play like the Yankees envisioned when they obtained him in the offseason.
Since dealing Beltran until getting hurt on August 31, Hicks slashed .288/.337/.450 with an impressing OPS of .787 while hitting four home runs in 25 games compared to the three he had in the first 87 games of his season.
All that, and he continues to provide the Yankees with an elite defender with one of the better arms in the league. At least sabermetrically as he currently leads the team’s outfielders and ranks 13th in the American League with an “Ultimate Zone Rating” of 5.7 (quantifies how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess), according to FanGraphs.
After an inadequate sample size, many pointed to this trade being an utter failure for both parties involved. However, for the Yankees, Hicks has turned a corner and seemed as though his absence has been felt in Minnesota this season, especially after heating up at the deadline.
Again, despite the incredible clubhouse personality they lost in Murphy, there is no denying that, notwithstanding the poor start, Hicks has been everything he was presumed to be when Cashman pulled the trigger back in November.
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Christian Kouroupakis covers the New York Yankees for ESNY. Interact with him and view his daily work by “liking” his facebook page and follow him on Twitter. All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Don’t hesitate to shoot him an email with any questions, criticisms, or concerns.