The New York Yankees are extremely close to the fourth luxury tax threshold, otherwise known as the “Steve Cohen tax.” The Bombers are trying to stay below $293 million in active payroll, so spending money on free agents doesn’t seem to be in the books at the moment.
However, there are ways that general manager Brian Cashman can offload salaries or at least take on a portion to move players and clear a bit of space to make additional signings.
Currently, Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson make the most sense as potential trade pieces, but convincing teams to take on their salary is the most difficult part. Hicks is coming off another down season at 32 years old. He will be 33 in 2023, hitting .216 with a .330 OBP, eight homers, and 40 RBIs last season, finishing with a 90 wRC+. His Steamer projections have him hitting .223 with a .329 OBP, nine homers, and 36 RBIs in 2023, still underwhelming and failing to justify his $10 million per year salary.
Hicks has about $30.5 million remaining on his contract over the next three years, so clearing that money and targeting a player like Jurickson Profar could be a healthy alternative.
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The Yankees are having a difficult time moving Josh Donaldson for obvious reasons:
Donaldson, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to move. He’s coming off arguably a gold glove-level defensive campaign at third base last year, but his offensive metrics plummeted. Over 132 games, Donaldson hit .222 with a .308 OBP, 15 homers, and 62 RBIs with a 97 wRC+. This is the first time since 2012 he recorded the wRC+ below 117, let alone 100.
His contract still holds a significant amount of money for the upcoming season. At 37 years old, Donaldson is in line to make $21 million in base salary, $25 million in luxury tax salary, and a $6 million vesting option for the 2024 season.
Given his downward turn in the offense department and his baggage, moving him becomes extremely difficult. Nonetheless, management has been trying to move Hicks and Donathan all off-season.
Meanwhile, the Yankees continue to let teams know that third baseman Josh Donaldson (who is owed $29 million) and outfielder Aaron Hicks (owed $30.5 million) are still very much available as they’re willing to eat part of the contracts.Via Bob Nightengale of the USA Today Network.
Cashman continues to back Aaron Hicks to the end of the Earth:
Despite reports indicating that Donaldson and Hicks could be on the move and the team is certainly interested, Cashman backed the veteran outfielder over the weekend. Specifically, he noted how Hicks could win the starting left-field job, a position that is considered vacant and headed toward a position battle with Oswaldo Cabrera in the mix.
If the Yankees could sign Profar on a short-term deal and offload Hicks with a portion of his contract, it might be worthwhile. Profar is a better hitter and offers average defense with good arm strength.
“I suspect he will be the guy that emerges [in left field] because he is still really talented and everything is there,” Cashman said Sunday on SiriusXM MLB Network Radio. “Hopefully we can get the Aaron Hicks we know is in there back as a consistent player for us.”
The question is, is Hicks really as talented as Cashman believes? His production seems to drop off consistently every season, and after suffering a wrist injury in 2021, his power metrics declined. He hosted a 33.1% hard-hit rate last season, including a 5.8% barrel rate, his worst numbers since 2016.
At some point, Cashman needs to cut the cord with Hicks, which should be sooner rather than later.