Aaron Hicks has been a colossal disappointment since signing an extension with the New York Yankees. This time, he might have run out of chances in the Bronx.
He arrived in a trade with the Minnesota Twins in 2016 and, save for one brilliant 2018, has struggled to stay healthy. From back spasms to Tommy John surgery and now a wrist issue, his medical file reads longer than Peter Griffin’s bar tab.
And where are the Yankees in all of this? If we’re being honest, between a rock and a hard place. Including this season, Hicks has five years and $50.5 million remaining on a seven-year, $70 million extension he signed in 2019. The Yankees also hold a $12.5 million club option for 2026, Hicks’ age-36 season.
The contract isn’t even at its halflife yet, and time is forcing the New York Yankees’ hand. Sooner or later, they’re going to have to make a big decision about Aaron Hicks.
The Aaron Hicks we want
In 2018, trading for Hicks finally seemed to pay off in full. The switch-hitter set career highs in all categories from games played (137) to home runs and RBI (27 & 79). He only hit .248, but his switch-hitting and passable outfield defense captured fans’ hearts.
Aaron Hicks also drew the attention of not just a fan, but a local writer. Hicks’ season proved so captivating that I even called for him to receive an extension before he hit the market. Moreover, I said Hicks should receive, specifically, a deal worth $75 million over five years so he could be moved in case a top outfield prospect was ready.
Well, that day has come. The Yankees recently promoted centerfield prospect Estevan Florial to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He only hit .229 at Double-A Somerset, but four home runs in nine games was apparently enough.
There’s just one problem. Aaron Hicks’ contract isn’t as movable as it once was.
The Aaron Hicks we have
This is because Hicks’ 2021 season has been, in a word, awful. Before going on the IL with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist, he was batting .194 with four home runs and 14 RBI. For some reason or another, he’s just having issues making good contact with the ball and holds a BABIP of just .224.
Even worse, Hicks has seen his BB% plummet to 11.1%, down from a career-high 19.1% last year. Keep in mind, that ranked third in MLB and first in the American League.
To add insult to injury, while his walks have dropped, Aaron Hicks has seen his strikeouts go up. It has risen almost six points to 23.8% compared to 18% last year.
He isn’t hitting, can’t stay healthy, and now has prospects nipping at his heels with a ferocity reminiscent of Cujo.
I guess there’s really just one question: which team would now agree to take on a player like Aaron Hicks?
Keep in mind, none of this is to say Aaron Hicks should be traded tomorrow. Surgery is on the table, but he’s treating his wrist with anti-inflammatories now. For all we know, he’ll be back in a couple of weeks, be right as rain, and we’ll forget even having this conversation.
For what it’s worth, I can be counted among those who want to see Hicks succeed in pinstripes.
But right now, the New York Yankees could have a problem on their hands. Hicks is 31, expensive, not hitting well, and can’t stay healthy. Even if Brian Cashman finds a willing trade partner, New York will be on the hook for a good chunk of the remaining money.
Meanwhile, Estevan Florial is 23 and appears to be progressing fast despite there being no minor league season in 2020. Brandon Lockridge and Everson Pereira are also intriguing outfield prospects who could be ready in the next couple of years.
Oh, and have we already forgotten Jasson Dominguez?
It might not happen this summer, or even this season, but we all know what’s coming.
There’s soon going to be a decision made about Aaron Hicks, so better to start preparing for all outcomes good or bad.