Finally, something all Yankee fans can be happy about: Aaron Hicks is going to be in pinstripes for seven more years. We will have more in-depth analysis of the deal coming soon. For now, here are five initial thoughts about Hicks’ extension:
1. Aaron Hicks is one of the best outfielders in the game today. Think that’s hyperbole? Last year, Hicks had the sixth-highest WAR total (4.9) among all MLB outfielders. Over the past two years, Hicks sports a higher WAR per 600 plate appearances than Bryce Harper. Hicks is a force both at the plate, on the bases, and with the glove, and the Yankees now have him for $10 million per year over the next seven years. Yes, it’s a long deal, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s extremely team-friendly.
2. More on that last point: Sure, Hicks is 29 now and will be signed through his age-36 season. As such, some may be worried about the back end of the deal. It’s probably best not to dwell on that. Even if we assume that Hicks has reached his peak and will decline by 0.5 WAR for every season until 2025, he will still end up with 1.4 WAR, or perhaps just under 1 WAR in a part-time role, in his final year. That’s perfectly cromulent for a slightly expensive fourth outfielder, which is what Hicks is being paid like. At any rate, the surplus value that he will generate in the first few years of his deal will be immense.
3. Since his 2017 breakout, Hicks has been one of my favorite players on the Yankees. Despite being a borderline star for the past two seasons, it seems that Hicks still occasionally gets a bad rap from old-school fans who detest his low-average, fly-ball heavy approach to hitting. It makes me glad to see the Yankees recognize his value to the team in giving him a seven-year extension. Kudos to Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ scouting/player development staff, too. They saw Hicks’ potential before anyone else did and stuck with him even after his horrid 2016.
4. While I’m happy that the Yankees were able to sign a very good player to a team-friendly deal, I do wonder what this means for the wider MLB labor market. I doubt that Hicks would’ve secured seven years on the free-agent market had he tested the waters next year. However, he certainly would have earned a higher AAV and total contract value. Remember that Curtis Granderson, a similarly skilled player coming off of a mediocre walk year in 2013, got a four-year contract worth $60 million a few years back. I think Hicks could have copped a deal around five years and $85 million dollars assuming a similar market environment. Labor relations have apparently changed, though, and late bloomers like Hicks who reach free agency while entering or after their thirties have been especially hurt by teams’ conservative spending.
5. Even while I know that Hick’s seven-year, $70 million deal is a boon for the Yankees, I can’t shake the feeling that he isn’t being fairly compensated here. This isn’t a Yankee-specific criticism or Hal’s yacht meme; it’s a sincere expression of concern from a baseball fan who recognizes that the players are what drives the creation of wealth that MLB enjoys today. If even a player of Hick’s caliber is compelled to settle for $10 million a year, how daunting is the current free-agent market for the rest of the field?