The New York Yankees don’t exactly have a left fielder on the current roster, and with February around the corner and pitchers and catchers on the verge of reporting, it might be time for fans to familiarize themselves with the benefits of Rafael Ortega.
As spring training nears, it still seems likely that Aaron Hicks, the fan base’s favorite punching bag, will make the Opening Day roster and could very well be starting alongside Harrison Bader and Aaron Judge. Ditto Josh Donaldson at third base; while he may not be the starter if DJ LeMahieu is healthy and Gleyber Torres survives until Opening Day, he’s still the odds-on favorite to be the team’s designated “energy guy” on the bench.
Why? Because, despite the Yankees’ best efforts, both Donaldson and Hicks make far too much money to be traded without New York agreeing to a significant financial sacrifice (and a decreased prospect package).
The Yankees are reportedly still in favor of trading both Donaldson and Hicks, all things being equal. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for either player, and it means you, as a fan, are right to feel underwhelmed if Hicks is roaming the left-field line where he once stared at a fair ball when April comes around:
"USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports “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.”"
The only question remains: how much are they willing to eat, exactly? Because it’s going to have to be a high percentage.
Yankees Opening Day Roster 2023: Get Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks off of it
The most difficult-to-believe part of this whole debacle? Donaldson’s $29 million is mostly tucked in 2023’s payroll, including a $6 million option that became mutual upon the third baseman’s trade to New York. Hicks’ money? It’s $30.5 million spread over three years. This extension simply never ends.
The Yankees will have to eat at least 50% of each contract to make a move. 50% is the baseline.
While it sounds ghastly to absorb that much cash for a deadened asset, it would be very beneficial to the Yankees to shed $10 million of Donaldson’s money and $5 million of Hicks’ money for 2023. At the moment, the team is just $3 million below the Steve Cohen Tax, unable to entertain a move larger than Josh Harrison. With $18 million to play with, fitting Jurickson Profar would be a breeze, and would leave Brian Cashman $10 million more for deadline deals.
Of course, the dead money involved makes Hicks roaming left and Donaldson bat-flipping singles and fly outs next April the most likely outcome.
Cashman will be relentless until he hears a bell that officially closes the trade market, but if he’s under the gun and hasn’t yet passed the 50% threshold, it’s time to up the offer.
The Yankees may never operate like Steve Cohen’s Mets, but to get rid of redundant asset James McCann, New York’s NL team just ate up $19 million out of the $24.3 million remaining on his long-term deal. That’s an egregious 78%.
Sometimes, that’s what you’ve gotta do.