Aaron Hicks’ release puts a dent in Yankees’ finances

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The New York Yankees have officially ended their association with Aaron Hicks. The outfielder was released on Friday afternoon, following his designation for assignment by the team a week earlier. This decision was long overdue, considering Aaron Hicks’ underwhelming performance and frequent injury setbacks over the years.

By waving goodbye to Aaron Hicks, the Yankees have committed to absorbing the remaining financial obligations of his seven-year, $70 million contract. Approximately $27 million of guaranteed salary remains for Hicks over the next two and a half years.

Aaron Hicks made his major league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2013. In November 2015, he was traded to the New York Yankees, where he has since played. Throughout his career, he has maintained a batting average of .230, hitting 101 home runs and driving in 356 RBIs in a total of 898 games.

Having been released by the Yankees, Aaron Hicks is now a free agent and can negotiate with any interested team. Despite the Yankees’ attempts, they were unable to secure a trade for the outfielder in the past week after the franchise designated him for assignment. It appears that no organization was willing to take on his contract through a trade. As a result, Aaron Hicks is now free to explore opportunities with other teams in the MLB.

Even if Aaron Hicks finds a new team and remains on their roster, the Yankees will still be responsible for the majority of his contract.

The financial impact of cutting Aaron Hicks

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AP

Aaron Hicks failed to live up to the Yankees‘ high expectations during his seven-year, $70 million deal. He had a promising start to his career, hitting .255/.368/.470 with 42 home runs in 2017 and 2018, but injuries have hampered his offensive output in subsequent years. His .231/.350/.431 slash line from 2019 and 2020 is rather respectable. But his attacking output has dropped down sharply ever since. Aaron Hicks had a bad season at the plate in 2023, slashing just .188/.263/.261 in 76 at-bats. He owns a .209/.315/.310 slash line in 655 career at-bats spanning all the way back to 2021.

Aaron Hicks faced relentless booing from Yankees fans whenever he took the field, with his struggles at the plate contributing to the dissatisfaction. Prior to his release, the 33-year-old outfielder had a disappointing batting average of .188 over 28 games played this season. However, in his last week with the team, Aaron Hicks experienced a sudden surge in performance, hitting .353 with a robust 1.097 OPS and recording all three of his extra-base hits in the 2023 season.

When the decision was made to release Aaron Hicks, his remaining contractual obligations amounted to approximately $27.6 million. This included the remainder of his current season’s salary, which was around $7,620,968 from his $10.5 million annual salary. Additionally, Aaron Hicks was due salaries of $9.5 million for each of the following two seasons, along with a $1 million buyout for a potential team option in 2026.

Aaron Hicks is now eligible to be signed by any Major League team for a prorated share of the league minimum salary, which amounts to $720,000. If he signs with another team, the amount owed to him by the Yankees would be offset by the new contract.

Following his departure from New York, it is anticipated that Aaron will sign a new contract at the league minimum salary. However, it’s important to note that he will still receive payments from his previous Yankees contract. The team was originally obligated to pay him $10.5 million for this year, and they will additionally owe him $20 million after the conclusion of the season, as reported by USA Today.

The struggle that doomed Aaron Hicks

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In February 2019, Aaron Hicks signed a seven-year contract worth $70 million with the Yankees. It then signified his emergence as one of the top center fielders in the league. The switch-hitting outfielder’s decision to commit to the extension came on the heels of a standout performance, solidifying his reputation as a highly capable player.

However, his season took a turn when he suffered a right elbow injury on August 3. As a result, he was unable to participate in the remainder of the regular season and missed five postseason games. Despite the setback, Aaron Hicks made a notable impact by hitting a home run off Houston’s Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

On October 30, Aaron Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery, performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who serves as the head team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After making a comeback in July of the subsequent year, during the abbreviated season due to the pandemic, Aaron Hicks struggled to regain his previous form. His performance noticeably declined, as he recorded a batting average of .212 with 19 home runs and 80 RBIs in 244 games following the surgery. This was a significant drop from his pre-injury stats, where he held a .236 batting average with 82 home runs and 276 RBIs in 654 games. Unfortunately, Aaron Hicks had a wrist injury on May 12, 2021, and it led to a season-ending surgery on May 26.

Despite facing numerous challenges, Aaron Hicks has consistently been considered an average or better left fielder in recent years. While his once stellar defense in center field has diminished, he showcased remarkable skills by accumulating 8 Defensive Runs Saved in just 413 innings played in left field during the 2022 season. Although Aaron Hicks has struggled regardless of the opponent in the 2022-23 seasons, he displayed a commendable performance against left-handed pitchers in 2021 and holds a career batting line of .247/.327/.415 as a right-handed hitter facing lefties.

Notably, Aaron Hicks has exhibited an impressive ability to draw walks, with a 12.5% walk rate in his 3352 Major League plate appearances. Even in the midst of his current offensive decline, his walk rate remains above average at 9.2%.

While Aaron Hicks may not be performing at the same level as his peak, his release from the Yankees and their financial obligation presents an opportunity for an outfield-needy team, especially one looking to bolster their performance against left-handed pitching. While there are no guarantees that Aaron Hicks will regain his previous form, it would be a low-cost endeavor for another team to explore whether a change of scenery away from the Bronx spotlight and the constant scrutiny surrounding his contract and declining performance could lead to a resurgence, even if it’s only partial. Many players have successfully revived their careers after leaving the Yankees and experiencing a less demanding environment.

On Thursday at Yankee Stadium, Yankees president Randy Levine expressed his perspective on Hal Steinbrenner’s decision-making process over cutting Aaron Hicks. According to Levine, Steinbrenner’s attentiveness to the input of baseball personnel and their recommendations demonstrates his commitment to fielding the strongest team possible. Levine emphasized that his own responsibility lies in managing the financial aspects of the organization.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Aaron Hicks’ release puts a dent in Yankees’ finances

  1. The Yankees are not smart at all.Trades for Montas,Donaldson,have been a bust.Signing Rodon another problem.What can you expect when he’s usually hurt.Yankee lineup is weak even with Judge Credit Rays,Baltimore,,Texas for having a better scouting team.Where did they get their hitters?Yankees call their prospects highly touted.TB Franco ,Houston Pena deserve highly toured description.Yankees do not have a championship team.If George was alive this would not happen.Boone continues to say they will hit.Team batting avg 211.

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