One way or another, the New York Yankees need to find a way to offload both Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks. If general manager Brian Cashman realistically wants to continue spending after retaining slugger Aaron Judge, he needs to open up salary space elsewhere, and the most obvious route is recouping some of Donaldson and Hicks’s salaries for the 2023 season.
Both are set to earn a significant amount, totaling $31.5 million, enough to land one of the top starting pitchers on the market or, at the very least, acquire a solid left fielder and bullpen support.
Donaldson is coming off a down 2022 season at 36 years old. He hit .222 with a 30.8% on-base rate, two of the worst numbers in his entire career. In fact, this was the first time he posted a sub-100 wRC+ since 2012.
Projected to earn $21 million with an $8 million buy-out in 2024, there is no question that moving Donaldson would open up a ton of financial freedom this off-season.
Hicks, on the other hand, is set to earn $10.5 million coming off one of his worst seasons as a professional. The 33-year-old outfielder hit .216 with a 33% on-base rate, including eight homers and 40 RBIs across 130 games. His offensive contributions have completely deteriorated, and his defense was spotty due to a lack of effort.
With the emergence of Oswaldo Cabrera, a super-utility option that can play both the outfield and infield, Hicks doesn’t serve a purpose at his price tag. The team is already expected to pursue a new left fielder heavily, and with Harrison Bader in centerfield, there’s simply no place for Aaron to play, suggesting he is traded.
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Two methods the Yankees can use to offload Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks:
1.) Consume a portion of their salary
Clearing Donaldson and Hicks’s entire salaries will be easier said than done, especially since both are underperforming and aging quickly. The more likely scenario is that Cashman agrees to pay a portion of their salaries to get them off the team, opening up to roster spots and maybe recouping half of their financial commitment. Even if the team walks away with about $15 million to spend this off-season, that essentially pays for a new left fielder, whether that be Andrew Benintendi or Masataka Yoshida.
With Donaldson‘s baggage and Hicks going several seasons without putting together a positive offensive campaign, it will be challenging to move them in general, but paying for half of their salaries makes the most sense. Donaldson can be a great defensive player at $10 million and potentially bounce back from a down year in the batter’s box.
Hicks can serve as a starter at $5.25 million or offer decent utility services in the outfield with a switch-hitting bat. It is important to note that players have had tremendous success leaving the Yankees — the criticism and expectations can demoralize players.
2.) Package them with a player
Another possible strategy is that Cashman looks to package Donaldson and Hicks with another player or prospects to fully offload their contracts. Some have suggested the idea of combining their salaries with Gleyber Torres, who should have a decent amount of value this off-season in a prospective trade.
Instead of utilizing Torres as bait to get rid of their salaries, the Yankees also have prospects to utilize as an alternative. This off-season certainly has a lot of questions that Cashman must answer, but if Judge is keen on signing with a team that expects to continue adding pieces, clearing salary space is essential for the Bombers.