clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Yankees potential trade target: Jordan Hicks

One of the hardest-throwers in the sport could be up for grabs.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The bullpen carried a massive load for the Yankees in the first half of 2023, and the relief corps has understandably shown a bit of wear and tear from overuse. They still sport an excellent 3.20 ERA and relievers have accounted for 9.9 fWAR this season. Reinforcements are imminent, namely the talented Jonathan Loáisiga. The Yankees perpetually look to improve the bullpen, so another move for a reliever isn’t unlikely.

As Josh pointed out in his piece on David Bednar, the Yankees have made a deadline deal for a reliever each of the last three seasons. Brian Cashman has long shown his affinity for the buy-low reliever, as was the case with Clay Holmes two years ago. Reliever David Robertson moved from the Mets to the Marlins, perhaps opening the floodgates for bullpen upgrades among teams perusing the market.

Today’s topic of discussion is Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals, the veteran fireballer originally from Houston, and how he might fit into the Yankees’ bullpen calculus. Hicks engaged in contract talks with the Cardinals that ended up being perfunctory — in such a down year, the team is purely looking to sell any post-arbitration players who might bring back prospect talent.

2023 Stats: 40 G, 41.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 12.74 K/9, 5.18 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, 1.512 WHIP, 0.8 fWAR

Hicks is less of a mainstream option, therefore cheaper, than a dominant late-inning presence like Bednar. On the surface, his numbers tell the tale of a wild but electric reliever, a prototype that’s become a dime a dozen these days, albeit one with 100th percentile fastball velocity.

Hicks has a more established track record, albeit still an inconsistent one, than many hard-throwing relievers with poor control. He’s thrown 219 big-league innings with an ERA of 3.98 and a FIP of 3.67. He also has some relevant postseason experience in the form of 1.2 scoreless innings in last year’s NL Wild Card series.

What might jump out at you from his surface level stats is the FIP over half a run lower than the ERA. This harkens back to Clay Holmes, the current Yankees closer, who was surrounded by a generally awful team in Pittsburgh just as Hicks is in St. Louis. Holmes came over in 2021 and immediately flourished with a better supporting cast behind him.

Any team would be interested in pitcher with this much red on his Statcast page — there are a lot of hard throwers around the league, but Hicks’ gas is elite. Paired with a Yankee defense that is strong up the middle, with Kyle Higashioka’s glove behind the plate and Anthony Volpe and Harrison Bader in the center of the field, it’s easy to envision the Yankees fully unlocking Hicks much like they unlocked Homes.

Interesting and perhaps concerning is his 30th percentile chase rate; for a guy with such good stuff, he’s quite reliant on his fastball. His limitations as a pitcher come from his greatest strength — as the saying goes, any major leaguer will eventually time up a fastball, no matter how hard. Hitters are easily spitting on breakers out of the zone, and the fact he doesn’t throw many strikes to begin with doesn’t help.

He may find himself in the same situation Holmes did, taking advantage of some Matt Blake magic to best harness his velocity and rein in his walk rate. The 92nd percentile average exit velocity is excellent for someone who throws as hard as Hicks does. Ultimately, even if Hicks doesn’t get opponents to chase all that often, he seems like he’d be a good fit with this particular squad.

If Brian Cashman wants Hicks, he’d better act fast. Several teams, most notably the Rangers, are actively inquiring about him. Hicks is a pure rental, so the cost won’t be astronomical, but there will be other clubs looking to bring him in. He could work well in New York, but time will tell if the team sees fit to take a swing on him.