The Yankees can still find a way to off-load $10.5 million outfielder

aaron hicks, yankees
Feb 23, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks (31) prepares to throw the ball during spring training practice at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Yankees look to bolster their roster and maintain their position as perennial contenders, it’s time for them to make some tough decisions. One not-so-difficult decision is to part ways with Aaron Hicks.

Despite occasional flashes of potential, his ongoing struggles at the plate and in the field have made him a liability.

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Why the Yankees need to off-load Aaron Hicks ASAP:

Declining offensive production:

Hicks‘ offensive production has steadily declined since his standout 2018 season, in which he hit .248 with 27 home runs and 79 RBIs. In 2021, he played in just 32 games due to injuries and batted a mere .194 with 4 home runs and 14 RBIs. While injuries have undoubtedly played a role in his performance, his offensive numbers are not justifiable for an everyday starting outfielder.

To start the 2023 season, the 33-year-old outfielder is hitting .107 with a .194 OBP, enjoying a -10 wRC+. He has one RBI and is striking out at a 32.3% rate with a 9.7% walk rate. Overall, his numbers have taken a significant step in the wrong direction, and his confidence is completely shot.

Realistically, the only way the Yankees will be able to offload his entire salary is by pairing him with a quality player, potentially a prospect with some decent upside. The question is, how much is $10 million worth to the Yankees over the next few seasons, and do they value that bit of salary space more than a potential youngster?

Strikeout woes:

Strikeouts have been a consistent issue for Hicks throughout his career. In 2018, he struck out in 19.1% of his plate appearances, which ballooned to 22.9% in 2020 and 24.1% in 2021. These high strikeout rates and declining offensive production have made him a considerable liability in the Yankees’ lineup.

Defensive struggles:

While Hicks was once considered a solid defensive center fielder, his performance in recent years has been less than stellar. In 2021, he posted a -1 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) rating, indicating that he cost the Yankees one run defensively throughout the season. This is a far cry from his 2017 and 2018 seasons, when he posted DRS ratings of 12 and 6, respectively.

This season, Hicks has played 73 innings in the outfield with a perfect fielding percentage but does host -1 out above average and zero defensive runs saved. He’s been a net negative across the board, which is why the Yankees have slowly been reducing his role — the alternatives are just as bad.

Injury concerns:

Aaron Hicks has had difficulty staying on the field in recent seasons. In 2019, he played in just 59 games due to various injuries, and in 2021, he underwent surgery to repair a torn sheath in his left wrist, sidelining him for the majority of the season. These recurring injury issues raise concerns about his durability and ability to contribute consistently.

Financial considerations:

Hicks is signed through the 2025 season with an annual average salary of $10 million. Given his declining performance and injury history, this contract could become an albatross for the Yankees, who may be better off reallocating resources to more productive and reliable players.

As aforementioned, the Yankees can realistically move his contract only by pairing him with a player of legitimate value. That money could be spent to acquire another contract, potentially a player on a different team struggling but with a bit more upside. The beneficial perspective is that the Yankees won’t have to continue paying him beyond the 2023 season.