The Yankees announced earlier this morning that they had signed outfielder Aaron Hicks to a seven-year $70 million contract extension. Just hours later, Hicks found himself hitting cleanup in a spring training matchup with the Blue Jays. Hicks was pulled from the game in the 4th inning and got to the plate twice, but was unable to reach base in either at bat.
Hicks initially came to the plate in the first inning with Stanton on base and one out. In atypical Hicks fashion, he swung early in the count and popped out to shortstop. Hicks later came to the plate in the 3rd inning and did a much better job at working the count, seeing a total of 6 pitches in the at-bat. However, Hicks went down swinging on a looping offspeed pitch from Danny Barnes.
What Does Aaron Hicks’ Contract Mean for Aaron Judge?
In locking up Hicks for 7 years with an AAV of $10 million, the Yankees have now signed two key components to their roster (the other being Luis Severino at the same AAV) for a relatively cheap price. The new ideology of the front office was on full display in the pursuit (or lack thereof) of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper and it is becoming increasingly more clear that the Yankees do not intend to break the bank and pay a hefty luxury tax fee.
Why this is important for the Yankees is that Judge is eligible for arbitration following this season. It would be fair to say that at some point in the near future, Judge won’t be available for his meager 2018 salary of $600k and that the Yankees will likely have to pay him near market value. Although Ellsbury’s atrocious contract comes off the books after the 2020 season and will free up over $20 million per year, the Yankees will still have hefty sums of money committed to Giancarlo Stanton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Aroldis Chapman for the foreseeable future.
By taking a gamble and locking up Hicks and Severino early, Yankee GM Brian Cashman is hoping that he can keep enough money on the books to sign Judge to a long term deal that doesn’t break the bank for the Yankees. Similar to Judge, catcher Gary Sanchez is eligible for arbitration after this season and will likely command a much higher price tag in the near future.
Troy Tulowitzki and James Paxton Shine in Yankee Debut
Not to be overshadowed by the major news involving Hicks’ contract extension, the Yankees got their first look at Troy Tulowitzki and James Paxton in pinstripes. Paxton started the day for the Yankees and despite walking two men in the first, looked crisp considering it is still February. When Paxton missed, it wasn’t by much and he mostly avoided giving up hard-hit balls despite throwing primarily fastballs.
Troy Tulowitzki led off the game with a bang for the Yankee offense and homered against his old team (who still happen to be paying the bulk of his salary). Although Tulo grounded out in his only other at-bat on the day, he looked surprisingly fresh in the field and made a number of solid plays showcasing his improved athleticism. For a man that has been plagued by injuries over the past few seasons, today was a great first step back and if he can even regain a sliver of his former MVP self, the Yankees will have landed one of the biggest steals of the offseason.