Yankees’ formerly DFA’d outfielder signs free agent deal with Angels

MLB: ALDS-Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

This past season the Yankees cut loose outfielder Aaron Hicks, who struggled mightily with the team and desperately needed a change of scenery after falling off a cliff with the team. He’d join the Baltimore Orioles midseason, and the new environment seemed to galvanize him as he slashed /.275/.381/.425 for a 129 wRC+ and 1.5 fWAR across 65 games. He signed a seven-year $70 million contract with the Yankees that ran through the 2026 season, and they still owe him money through the 2025 season.

Entering his age-34 season, Aaron Hicks will head to the West Coast as he’s agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Angels to boost their outfield according to Jeff Fletcher of SoCal News Group.

Angels Pick Up Former Yankees Outfielder in Free Agency

aaron hicks, yankees
May 8, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Aaron Hicks (31) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Hicks had plenty of ups and downs with the Yankees, and while we saw more of the down in recent years, he initially came to the Yankees on a steal of a trade. When the Yankees dealt John Ryan Murphy to the Minnesota Twins, they were taking a flier on a former first-round pick who struggled to find consistency at the plate. He posted 10.5 fWAR with the Yankees, significantly more value than what Murphy provided, but issues with health and consistency held the switch-hitter back from generating more value.

Trouble began brewing for Aaron Hicks in the Bronx when he suffered a season-ending injury in 2021, a year where he posted a 77 wRC+ and 0 WAR across 32 games, and 2022 would prove to be even more of a challenge. Heading into the All-Star Break, Hicks had a 111 wRC+ and .361 OBP, riding a hot month of July into what could have been a turnaround season, but the second half would prove to be nightmarish. With an abysmal .279 OBP and 59 wRC+, Hicks had effectively lost his spot in the outfield with both Andrew Benintendi and Oswaldo Cabrera added to the roster.

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

2023 would see all of these issues culminate in an ugly split between the Yankees and Aaron Hicks, as he posted a -6 wRC+ through his first 21 games. Hicks began to click for a bit, but they still chose to cut him loose and designate him for assignment out of the blue in Cincinnati. Aaron Boone and Aaron Hicks didn’t see eye-to-eye on what his playing time should look like, with Hicks sitting the first three games of the season as the team opted to name Oswaldo Cabrera their starting left fielder.

I just want to play. I don’t want to come off the bench and face closers all day. I want to play the field, I want to play every day, and it’s just what I want to do. I want to start. I really don’t know what else to say.

– Aaron Hicks (via Brendan Kuty of The Athletic)
mlb: alds-texas rangers at baltimore orioles, yankees, aaron hicks
Oct 8, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Aaron Hicks (34) hits a three run home run during the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers during game two of the ALDS for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Yankees DFA’d Hicks, they still owe him his remaining salary for the next two seasons and can buy out his contract after 2026 at just $1 million. He’ll now don the Angels’ uniform as he looks to build off of his time with the Orioles, where he rediscovered his bat at the plate. It was an ugly finish in New York, but Hicks also had moments of success such as when he received voting shares for AL MVP in 2018, his home run in Game 5 of the 2019 ALCS, and his unbelievable catch to save a game in Minnesota, called perfectly by Ryan Ruocco.

The Yankees now have Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo in their corner outfield, a massive upgrade over what they had previously, and it seems that parting ways has worked out for both sides. Aaron Hicks will get to play in the sunny weather in Los Angeles where he can rebuild his value even more and endear himself to Angels’ fans, and the Yankees cleared up a spot on their roster and found sustainable outfield play for 2024.