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Yankees trade for Aaron Hicks: What it means for roster construction

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees were busy yesterday when they moved Jose Pirela and acquired Aaron Hicks from the Twins for John Ryan Murphy. People have speculated on what it might mean for the team's roster for the 2016 season, but there's really no way of knowing this soon into the offseason. The best we can do is consider what's in store for the pieces the Yankees already have.

It's pretty clear, though, that the trade of John Ryan Murphy means that the Yankees are confident with what they've seen from Gary Sanchez. The right-handed hitting catcher has been among the organization's top prospects for awhile now, but it wasn't until this past season that things really took off for him. At the age of 22, Sanchez hit .295/.349/.500 after being promoted to Triple-A Scranton in July. After a small cameo in the big leagues, Sanchez has hit .304/.329/.638 with a league-leading seven home runs in the Arizona Fall League. It feels like the bat that everyone has been waiting to wake up has finally come to life. Brian Cashman feels like Sanchez could play in the majors right now, so it's highly probable that he starts the 2016 season as the backup catcher under Brian McCann. The team doesn't really have much of an alternative, other than Austin Romine, who will probably get the bulk of play at Scranton this year.

By acquiring Hicks, the Yankees set up a much more complicated series of possibilities. Most obvious right now is that this is the end of Chris Young's tenure in pinstripes. After hitting .327/.397/.575 against left-handed pitching this year, Cashman was probably interested in bringing his right-handed weapon back for another season, however, it's believed that the 32-year-old outfielder is looking for regular playing time and more money, so the Yankees likely said no thank you. When the Red Sox were rumored to be interested in his services, the Yankees probably didn't even want to start competing. Hicks hit a comparable .307/.375/.495 lefties last year, was not as useless against right-handed hitting as Young was, and is a much better, and more versatile, outfielder.

Depending on how things go from here, they are essentially getting Chris Young for cheap over the next four seasons. If the Yankees end up keeping Brett Gardner, it will still change things in the outfield. Hicks would be a regular late-inning replacement for Carlos Beltran. It would probably mean Gardner would get less playing time against lefties, and it would allow Jacoby Ellsbury and the rest of the starting outfielders to get more off days, since Hicks can play anywhere. If they do trade Gardner, the Yankees could have Hicks as their starting left-fielder, though that would be pretty daring, since he hasn't shown an ability to hit right-handed pitching. It could also mean that they go out and acquire a free agent outfielder and keep Hicks on the bench. We'll have to see.

A very overlooked result of this trade is that it creates a big logjam of outfielders and actually makes the roster crunch even worse. Between Gardner, Ellsbury, Beltran, Slade HeathcottMason Williams, and Dustin Ackley, something has to give. It once looked like Slade or Mason could eventually find a role on the roster, but both prospects will be stuck in Triple-A for the foreseeable future. At the moment, the team's 40-man roster stands at 38, but the Rule 5 Draft is coming up and they still have to protect Jake Cave. They have seven outfielders, three catchers and 21 pitchers on the 40, so more moves are coming.

We don't yet fully know what the Hicks trade means for the roster. For all we know, it's the precursor to something huge, but until then, all we can do is guess. While losing Murphy is a tough pill to swallow, gaining Sanchez and Hicks on the major league roster only improves the team. It's some tough luck for a few members of the depth chart, but that pales in comparison to the good of the team.