New York Yankees caught wind of the possibility that Aaron Hicks would have to undergo season-ending surgery on his wrist early on Friday morning, but nothing was widely reported.
Then came the news in the late afternoon. Hicks is likely done for the year, and if he’s not, he’ll return much later in the season and will probably need a good while to get back on track before he returns to his former self.
But that’s pretty much been Hicks’ issue with the Yankees ever since arriving before the 2016 season. He’s constantly battling something and his potential is hardly ever met.
In the end, it’s not the switch-hitting outfielder under a microscope — it’s general manager Brian Cashman.
The Yankees pulled a highway robbery on the Minnesota Twins in November of 2015 when they sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to them in exchange for Hicks.
At the time, the 25-year-old had a cannon for an arm and had just flashed potential with his bat that many figured would pan out over the course of five or so years. Sadly, at this point in his career, he’s arguably as bad as he’s ever been.
Why did the Yankees think it was a good idea to sign Aaron Hicks to a huge contract extension?
Yep, we know, hindsight is 20/20. We’re way ahead of ya. But it’s fair to say many fans scratched their heads when the Yankees announced a seven-year, $70 million extension for Hicks prior to the 2019 season. Sure, he had just come off his best season as a pro, but the Yankees never negotiate extensions with players prior to their free agency. Why jump the gun with Hicks, who had just played in more than 123 games in a single season for the first time in his six-year career?
That’s the thing. Even if the Yankees felt like he’d provide longevity because of his build, athleticism and ability to hit from both sides of the plate, Hicks had already shown he was injury prone and inconsistent. He began his career in Minnesota being ping-ponged between the MLB roster and Triple-A. During that timeframe, he was further limited with a shoulder, wrist and heel injuries.
Then he arrived in the Bronx and was a platoon player. A forearm strain limited him in 2016. Then two oblique injuries shelved him in 2017, allowing him to only play in 88 games.
Was Cashman really that enamored by Hicks’ promising 2018 to be swayed into handing out a seven-year contract?
His first year after signing that extension? Tommy John surgery. Limited to 59 games. He saw the field for 54 games in 2020, but that was largely a “get right” campaign in recovery from the TJ. And here we are in 2021. He started off the year almost fully unable to make contact. The Yankees preferred his lefty at-bats in the lineup, but he was better from the right side of the plate. Uncharacteristically, he had made a number of defensive lapses too.
And now the wrist. That should do it for him in a hopeful World Series year, unfortunately. Hicks has played in a total of 740 games since debuting in 2013. He’s average a half-season (82 games) per year. It’s heartbreaking for the 31-year-old, whose career has largely been characterized as “what could have been.”
It’s not his fault though. In fact, why not be happy the man got paid? He’s worked tremendously hard throughout his career to get to this point. Let the billionaires shell out his checks, the fans shouldn’t care.
However, this will inevitably “limit” the Yankees’ spending in the coming years when they use his extension as an excuse. On top of that, they saw the warning signs. They knew what he’d been going through. And to think this offseason they played a game of chicken with their team MVP, DJ LeMahieu in contract talks. Mind-boggling.
Perhaps the Yankees have an unwritten policy of not giving out extensions before free agency because they have poor judgement? It’s clear they do, because the last two they’ve given out (Hicks and Luis Severino) have been flops due to injuries, while the ones they could have gotten over with painlessly ended up lagging on much longer than many would have liked.
Now, the front office will need to make up for this at the trade deadline this year, or the roster is going to suffer mightily and another year of this championship window is going to be wasted.