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Ask Pinstripe Alley 2/17/18: Trading Aaron Hicks, Martin Prado, Rookie of the Year

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Spring training has arrived. So too have the answers to your Yankees questions.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Last week I placed a call for your mailbag questions. You responded with nearly a dozen questions. While I can’t answer them all in one sitting, I’ll try my hand at a few this morning. If your question didn’t get picked up, don’t worry. Another editor could always take a swing at it later in the week.

Larry asks: Why aren’t the Yankees looking to trade Aaron Hicks?

It’s funny, I had a story on Hicks and the outfield logjam near the top of my “to write” list. It looks like you’re getting it ahead of schedule. I planned on arguing that it would be in the Yankees’ best interest to keep the 28-year-old center fielder.

Hicks had a far better year in 2017 than one would expect. He hit .266/.372/.475 with 15 home runs across 88 games. That works out to an impressive 127 wRC+. Of course this came at the hand of a lopsided campaign, where an injury-riddled second half dragged down a scorching hot start. His underlying numbers, however, matter more to me, and they suggest he’s figured out his offensive game.

First, Hicks began to hit with authority last year. While he’s always had the tools, they never fully translated into results. Something clicked, however, and the switch hitter began to crush the baseball.

I like to use hard contract rate and groundball percentage to determine this. In Hicks’ case, he posted some of the best numbers of his career in each category in 2017.

Credit: FanGraphs

Hicks also improved his plate discipline last year. He lowed his 0-Swing percentage, the amount of times a player hacks at a pitch outside of the zone, by 2.5 points from 2016. In fact, that was his lowest rate since 2014. When a batter improves their eye and swing, it tells me he’s putting it all together. If he stays healthy, he could be a major threat on both sides of the ball.

That said, the Yankees will listen to calls on everyone. It’s irresponsible not to at least hear an idea out. If they could land a cost-controlled starting pitcher for Hicks, I’m sure they would. Sometimes things fall into a team’s lap. Nobody imagined a Starlin Castro for Giancarlo Stanton trade could be possible. For now though, Hicks has the most value in the lineup.

Jamie asks: What’s Martin Prado up to these days? Any chance the Yankees would go after him? He makes too much money, but the Marlins would probably eat some of it to offload him.

An old friend question! Prado provided a spark for a lifeless 2014 club after the trade deadline. The Yankees then immediately shipped him to Miami in the Nathan Eovaldi trade, to the chagrin of many. The Bombers have looked for a veteran infielder, and the 34-year-old fits the bill. Unfortunately, a reunion doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

The financials just don’t make sense on either side of the deal. Prado has two years and $28.5 million remaining on his contract. He signed an extension with the Marlins at the tail-end of the 2016 season. That likely prices him out of the Yankees’ range. They didn’t match the Mets’ offer to Todd Frazier, after all.

As for the Marlins, they have to pay someone, right? They’ve slashed payroll left and right this winter. Can they get away with unloading anymore contracts? At some point the Players Association would have to get involved. Miami needs to have a few contracts on their books that aren’t league minimum.

If Prado came on just a one-year deal, it would be worth exploring. He had an injury-shortened 2017, but has been a league average bat with a low strikeout rate for most of his career. As things stand, I can’t see the Yankees getting involved. They can just sign Neil Walker instead.

dpk875 asks: Who is the Yankees’ Rookie of the Year this season?

Gleyber Torres! I’ll take it a step further, and say that he’s not just the team’s top rookie. I say he wins the American League Rookie of the Year. That would be the second consecutive win for the Yankees, and, in a just world, a three-peat.