The New York Yankees secured switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks for the long-haul, inking the 29-year-old to a seven-year, $70 million extension on Monday, keeping him under team control through the 2026 season.
The decision to extend Hicks has drawn comparisons of past Yankees deals for switch-hitting center fielders. Fans will obviously hope that this decision replicates the deal given to Bernie Williams in 1998. George Steinbrenner gave Williams a seven-year, $87.5 million deal prior to the 1999 season, securing a centerpiece of two more World Series-winning teams.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lays the Jacob Ellsbury deal, as the Yankees agreed to terms on a seven-year, $153 million contract in prior to the 2014 season. Since then, he’s appeared in just 520 games while slashing .264/.330/.386 with 39 home runs and 198 RBI while the Yankees continue to look for ways to ship him out of town.
While the verdict of the deal will not be fully out for a few seasons, the Yankees have done more than enough to protect themselves. If Hicks continues to produce as he did in 2018, paying an annual average salary of $10 million for that kind of production is an absolute bargain. For an additional seven home runs and 21 RBI, Bryce Harper is set to make triple that mark in his next deal, whenever that may come.
A successful Hicks will quickly make the likes of Estevan Florial and Clint Frazier, two of the organization’s top outfield prospects, expendable, as first noted by Joel Sherman of the New York Post. It would allow the Yankees to build an impressive trade package as early as this year’s trade deadline for a top-tier starting pitcher should the rotation struggle in 2019. The Yankees were linked to perennial Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber during the offseason, who will be featured on a Cleveland Indians team that is expected to take a step back in the AL Central this year. If they’re going nowhere and find it essential to replenish the farm system, the Yankees would be a prime trade partner. The Indians would get two promising talents while the Yankees get an undisputed ace ahead of another likely postseason run.
Should Hicks struggle, however, it’s more likely both are held on to in order to provide a potential upgrade.