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Yankees trade for Aaron Hicks: Adding flexibility to the roster

Acquiring an outfielder for a backup catcher gives Brian Cashman room to work with this winter.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I don't think there's a single report on the trade for Aaron Hicks that did not mention flexibility. I don't think there was even a tweet about the trade that didn't mention flexibility. Let's take a look: hereherehere, and here, for example. Of course, those were Brian Cashman's exact words, but there is also a lot of truth there, and frankly that's the best word in the English language, at least baseball-related, to describe what this trade does for the roster.

As much as we all loved John Ryan Murphy, he was an expendable piece of the roster. I believe that he is a solid regular, and it seems the Twins think the same. There's no way he was going to see everyday playing time unless Brian McCann got seriously injured, so he was essentially wasted talent on the bench. Not only that, but Gary Sanchez's exploits this season, and in the Arizona Fall League, show that he could certainly be a competent backup. He'd definitely be better than Austin Romine.

Swapping that talent for somewhat comparable talent in the outfield makes a ton of sense, especially considering Hicks' profile, as well as the expected plan for this winter. Hicks is a useful, good-but-not-great piece. His bat does not profile well, especially against right-handed pitching, but his excellent performance against left-handers is enough to peg him as a Chris Young replacement. His defense is good enough that he could be used for late-inning defensive replacement, or even as an everyday player if his bat plays as well as it could.

What he does, as I mentioned before, is give the Yankees a few options. If they are confident he won't be able to hit right-handers, Joe Girardi would happily use him as a platoon bat, and he could use him to give Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner needed days off. But if the front office wants to go a different route--namely, trade Brett Gardner--then Hicks could be good enough to hold down the starting job in left field. This really depends on whether they think they can improve his bat a bit, but I don't see it as the end of the world if Hicks were to take Gardner's place in the chance a trade significantly improves the team elsewhere. In fact, Steamer projects Gardner and Hicks to be roughly equal in value over 600 plate appearances.

Whatever the front office decides to do, each outcome would be fine by me. Keeping Gardner and using Hicks as the fourth outfielder could give them a few extra dollars (by not signing Young) to spend on other fringes of the roster, and trading Gardner opens up the potential of having a younger version of him in Hicks take his place. The trade then makes the outfield an obvious area of depth between Dustin Ackley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Beltran, and Gardner. This is obviously just the first move of the winter, but the trend from last year continues: youth, upside, and flexibility reign supreme.