Back in July of this year, when the New York Yankees played at Minnesota, they saw firsthand the talent of Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks. The 26-year-old put up a good case for his status as a star in the making, running down deep drives in spacious gaps and, later in the game, belting a long home run off C.C. Sabathia in the first inning.
Moments of sheer brilliance throughout the game really impressed the Yankees, and on Wednesday, they completed their long pursuit of Hicks by trading backup catcher John Ryan Murphy to Minnesota.
The Yankees also sent utility player Jose Pirela to San Diego in order to get their hands on pitching prospect Ronald Herrera, on what was a very busy day for Brian Cashman and his fellow general managers. And it is clear the team is far from done with its trading business.
Right on the heels of the much-discussed Hicks trade, the Yankees are rumored to be contemplating sending Brett Gardner elsewhere in a bid to sign him to a team that can offer him more starting pitching.
Cashman has already revealed that Hicks might be taking Chris Young’s spot.
“At the very least, he’ll be taking Chris Young’s spot,” the Yankees GM said of Hicks. “We’ll see how the rest of the winter transpires.”
Now a free agent, Young was the team’s fourth outfielder in 2015 and a very effective hitter against left-handed pitching.
Now, the Yankees will be hoping to see Hicks follow a development trajectory similar to that of Didi Gregorius, who was acquired last December. After humble beginnings, Gregorius turned into a much-improved hitter and was considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the American League.
At six feet two inches tall and weighing at 210 pounds, Hicks took his time to get acclimated to the MLB when he was selected by the Twins as the 14th pick of the 2008 draft.
Between 2013 and 2014, Hicks spent parts of each season in the minors, as he struggled to perform at the plate. However, last season saw Hicks become an integral member of the team, batting .256 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs. He also stole 13 bases in 16 attempts, posted a .721 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, and batted .307 against left-handers.
Cashman believes that the time was right to trade for the 26-year-old, now that he has figured things out, thanks to the influence of Torii Hunter, who recently announced his retirement.
“It was a little bit like how Didi came into our environment and had some veteran players put their arms around him a little bit and let him grow underneath that veteran presence.”
The signing of Hicks perhaps hints at a change of acquisition policy under Cashman, who is now looking to acquire younger, cheaper, and more athletic talent for a team that currently boasts the oldest starting lineup in baseball.
“I wasn’t going to trade John Ryan Murphy for an old guy,” Cashman said.
And if they are able to trade Gardner for starting pitching talent, the Yankees can continue getting younger.