By: Noah Wright
Yesterday, the Yankees extended center fielder Aaron Hicks to a 7 year, $70 million deal with an 8th year team option. To me, it was an interesting signing with the team that still has young outfielder Clint Frazier, and Estevan Florial that could see his major league debut by the end of 2019.
Regardless, the Yankees locked down a quality center field option. Last season, Aaron Hicks batted a strong .248/.366/.833 line in 581 PA’s. He also blasted a career high 27 home runs, the 4th most by any CF last season. Hicks also showed he’s not a slow baserunner, stealing 11 bags. His 127 wRC+ ranked 2nd among main centerfielders (5th if you want to count Bryce Harper, Brandon Nimmo, and Tommy Pham as primary CF). It was still higher than the Brewers’ Lorenzo Cain, and Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger. Impressively enough, Hicks had drawn 90 walks, and only struck out 111 times last year. That resulted in a 15.5 walk %, the second highest (3rd if you want to count Harper) in centerfielders, and 5th among all qualifying players. Another pretty impressive stat Hicks put up was a 39.5 hard hit percentage. While Hicks did more than excel during 2018, this isn’t the first time the switch hitter has shown a good bat in the majors. During 2017, Hicks put up a .847 OPS with a .266 BA. in only 361 PA’s and 88 games. Plus, he was worth 126 wRC+.
Aaron may have shown a dip in overall defensive numbers, seeing his DRS go into the negatives (-3), and his UZR (.7) and dWAR (.2) sit right around average. But Hicks is usually a gold glove level defender in the grass. During 2017, Hicks had a whopping 15 DRS in the outfield, along with a 7 UZR and 1.5 dWAR.
While Aaron Hicks has been great and all the past year or so, his extension isn’t going to come without some questions. For starters, Hicks has suffered from an injury filled past. Last year, Hicks only played 137 games, and missed a week and a half of April. During 2017, the centerfielder missed nearly half of his games, playing only 88. Hicks missed about 3 quarters of a month in the summer of 2016. Hicks has only played more than 100 games twice in his career. That was this year when he played 137, and 2016 when he played 123 games with the Yanks. Hicks will definitely have some durability questions to answer during his 7 year extension. It’s also worth noting Hicks’ age. He’ll be 29 for all of next regular season, and be 30 by the end of October. His contract is 7 years long, and will last through his age 36 season. Hicks, by then, will be a fairly old MLB player, and we all know how bad some players can decline after their mid-30’s. Only a select few can keep up good performance after age 35 season.
Even with some questions about his durability and age later into the contract, it’s not like the Yankees are paying Hicks, Albert Pujols money. It’s only $10 million a season on average. While for some teams that may be a lot, for the Yankees, it’s barely anything. Nothing more than a petty cash amount. I have a hard time seeing this contract go bad. I do not expect Hicks to be healthy or 100% productive during the entire span of his 7 year deal, but it’s reasonable to expect 5 above average seasons from Hicks throughout the contract. As long as Hicks doesn’t play only 80-100 games every year of his contract, or his performance doesn’t completely take fall off a cliff within the next year or two, this Hicks extension could be one of the better ones for the Yankees in recent seasons.