The Yankees have designated veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks for assignment. Greg Joyce of the New York Post was the first to report the news. The Yankees also announced the move, and confirmed they’ve added the recently acquired Greg Allen to the active roster in his place.
It’ll be a costly move for the Yankees, with Hicks still owed $19.57M by way of $9.8M salaries in 2024-25, and a $1M buyout on a $12.5M club option for 2026. He’ll also be owed the remainder of his $10.8M salary in 2023. Hicks will now be exposed to waivers, but his struggles this year and the remaining money owed make it a near certainty he goes unclaimed. Instead, the Yankees could offer to eat the remainder of his contract and try to trade him to another team, or he could be released once he clears waivers.
It’s been a challenging start to the season for Hicks, who’s slashed just .188/.263/.261 with a single home run in 76 plate appearances. He’d fallen down the pecking order in New York, with the team often favoring infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa for starts in the outfield over him. He’s also walking at the rate at his worst rate since 2016, striking out more and defensive metrics haven’t looked favorably on his work in left field this season.
Hicks, 33, was a 14th overall pick by the Twins back in 2008. He was a consensus top-100 prospect coming through the minors in Minnesota’s organization, and he made his debut as a 23-year-old in 2013. He struggled that year and would never really get going over the next three seasons with the Twins, slashing .225/.306/.349 over 247 games between 2013-15. By 2015, the Twins were ready to move on and flipped him to New York in a deal for catcher John Ryan Murphy.
While his struggles continued in his first season in the Bronx, Hicks found his groove in 2017, slashing .266/.372/.475 with 15 home runs over 361 plate appearances. Injuries restricted him to just 88 games that year, but he again impressed in 137 games in 2018, posting a .248/.366/.467 line with 27 home runs and doing enough to earn some down-ballot AL MVP votes.
Hicks’ blend of power, walks and lack of strikeouts, not to mention his solid glove in center field was enough for the Yankees to hand Hicks a seven-year, $70M extension prior to the 2019 season, preventing him from reaching free agency the following winter. While at the time that looked like a solid rate for a player who’d just come off a 4.3 fWAR season, Hicks’ play deteriorated over the course of the deal.
In the four seasons between 2019-22, he’d be worth just 3.1 fWAR. A lot of that was down to injuries, as Hicks missed time in 2019 to back and flexor strains and appeared in just 59 games, while a 2021 wrist injury saw him appear in just 32 games that year. He did return fit in 2022, playing 130 games, but he hit just eight home runs as he struggled to find his power following wrist surgery. While he continued to walk at a decent clip, his declining power saw him hit just .216/.330/.313, while he also lost the center field job.
He did still contribute 1.4 fWAR in 2022, largely thanks to his walks and improved defense after being moved to left field. Nonetheless, the Yankees entered the past offseason with a bit of speculation over Hicks’ future. The optimistic view was that another year removed from wrist surgery would be enough for Hicks to regain his power and become a positive contributor to the lineup, while the pessimistic view was that Hicks’ declining play and advancing age meant his best years were permanently in the rearview mirror.
Now, after struggling over the first few months of the season, he’ll be made available to the rest of the league. It’s possible that a change of scenery is what’s needed for Hicks, who has been the target of plenty of criticism from Yankees fans in recent years.
Presuming he clears waivers, Hicks will be a cheap addition for any team as the Yankees are still on the hook for the remainder of his contract. In Hicks’ defense, he had started to hit a little better in recent times, putting up a .286/.375/.524 line over his last 24 plate appearances. He had also hit lefties at a .278/.381/.333 rate, and while both those lines are pulled from small sample sizes, he could make sense for a team wanting a cheap platoon bat.