It’s been extensively discussed on this website by yours truly, and many of my colleagues, that the Yankees are probably best served to move on from Aaron Hicks, and at this point, it would be a mutually beneficial move.
Hicks is a veteran, but at 33 years of age, he is more than capable of flourishing as a depth piece in another environment. Alas, it is just not working out in the Bronx, and while his long-term contract doesn’t help, it also shouldn’t deter the Yankees from moving off him.
Back at the trade deadline, the Padres wanted to move on from first baseman Eric Hosmer, an even bigger disappointment on an even bigger contract. And despite being a ballclub with a more limited budget, the team pulled the trigger to clear room on the roster for improvements. President AJ Preller shipped him off to Boston alongside with the money to cover virtually all of his contract (save for a league-minimum portion), which included $39 million owed to the former Royal after the 2022 season.
That’s right — the Padres are on the hook for more money owed to Hosmer than the Yankees would be, if the organization decided to outright release him now. Hicks is currently owed a little over $30 million through the rest of his deal, which is also guaranteed through the 2025 campaign.
The Padres shipped a couple of prospects in Corey Rosier and Max Ferguson to Boston as well, and received the former first-round pick, Jay Groome. Indications are that both teams liked this prospect exchange because it would make more sense for San Diego to just outright cut Hosmer and spend an extra mil, if it liked its two minor leaguers significantly more.
The Yankees seem to be looking for a similar outcome. Based on everything we’ve heard this off-season, the general feeling is that Brian Cashman wants to deploy a similar strategy for Hicks. The best-case scenario for moving on from Hicks and getting at least something in return would be to cover virtually all of his salary, sending him elsewhere in a swap involving minor leaguers.
This organization has had a lot of success finding diamonds in the rough, especially on the pitching end of things, so particularly if they can get a pitcher with some promise — but who has struggled to unlock his potential — then that would be very interesting.
Another aspect to highlight is that teams like the Yankees are always having to work to retain talent, and not get picked on by the constraints of the 40-man roster. We recently saw the Rays trade away J.P. Feyereisen, a very promising reliever, because they needed to clear space to add the recently signed Zach Efflin.
As long as the Yankees signal that they’re OK doing something like what the Padres did, they should still be able to find a few suitors for Hicks who may be willing to gamble on the former Twin. They may need that 40-man space very soon, as they still haven’t formally announced the signings of Aaron Judge, Carlos Rodón, or Tommy Kahnle, and they technically only have one open spot.
From a perception standpoint, it’s interesting to note that the Padres cutting the chord on Hosmer is an even bigger admission of a past mistake than it would be for the Yankees to move on from Hicks. It’s been a point of emphasis recently that this team, and in particular this Yankees front office, may be a little stubborn with its moves, sometimes sticking with something that hasn’t worked out for longer than it should.
Hicks was coming off two very strong years in 2017 and 2018 and had he maintained that form without struggling so much with injuries and decline, his extension would’ve been a pretty good one for the Yanks. Whereas Hosmer’s contract was viewed as a bad investment by the time it was announced, with the 2015 World Series champion never really showing he could live up to it.
When it comes to admitting mistakes, cutting the chord, and accepting a significant loss in an investment, the blueprint is there, and it came from a team who has to be much more diligent about its investment. So there really isn’t an excuse for the Yankees to not get this done at some point this offseason.