Yankees Thoughts: Aaron Hicks Fatigue

Center fielder isn't even halfway through his seven-year extension

The Yankees have the best record in baseball. It feels like the old days and the old days were amazing.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. The Yankees went to Baltimore and won yet another series, winning three of four against the Orioles to improve to 7-3 on the season against the last-place Orioles.

The Yankees could have swept the four-game series, but blew two different two-run leads in the series finale before getting walked off on. Oh well. Losses like that are going to happen. (I wish they didn’t happen when I have a sizable investment on the Yankees.) At least the Yankees kept their streak alive of only losing winnable games this season. They have yet to lay an egg or get routed and all 10 of their losses have been a game in which they had a chance to win in the eighth inning or later.

2. Everything is going right for the Yankees. OK, not everything. They have the worst offensive catcher situation in the majors, have a shortstop with no power and questionable defense and they may have just lost one of their Top 3 or Top 4 relievers for the season in Chad Green. But none of that is worse than Aaron Hicks. I’m going to change the Thoughts format for this one and focus on Hicks.

3. I’m tired of writing and talking about Hicks. Now in his seventh year as a Yankee, I have Aaron Hicks fatigue. I spend an inordinate amount of time being frustrated with Hicks and even more time being frustrated with the front office and the manager for continuing to treat him like he’s Bernie Williams. Unfortunately, it’s not going to end anytime soon.

Hicks is under contract this year … and next year … and the year after that … and the year after that … and then the year after that he will be bought out for $1 million. So after an enormous extension and a mediocre career, he will get paid an additional seven figures to not play for the Yankees in 2026.

4. When Hicks received his extension, the common response was that it was a fair deal for both the player and the team for a player who was close to free agency. It was a no-brainer for Hicks to sign. A team was willing to give him seven years of security and generational wealth in $70 million despite not being worth the years or the money. It was enough money where it was a sizable investment for the Yankees, but not enough where they couldn’t get out of it eventually if they had to. It wasn’t necessarily an immovable contract, but it wasn’t an albatross deal like the one the Yankees are worried of giving to Aaron Judge.

The Yankees were willing to gamble that a 29-year-old who had spent his entire 20s mostly either injured or underachieving his first-round draft status would be healthy on the other side of 30 and productive through his age 35 season. For an organization that portrays being meticulous about data and sample sizes, everything about Hicks’ career through 2018 suggested not committing to him through 2026. The Yankees did it anyway.

5. Since the day Hicks signed the deal, it has been a disaster. Shortly after agreeing to the extension, Hicks hurt his back on a 29-minute bus ride in late February in spring training 2019, but Aaron Boone said he would be ready for Opening Day. Hicks missed the first six weeks of the season, and after appearing in 59 games, he tore his elbow, which would need offseason Tommy John surgery.

Had the 2020 season started on time, Hicks would have missed the first half recovering from the surgery. Because the season didn’t begin until late July, he didn’t miss any time and played in 54 games.

In 2021, Hicks was named the No. 3 hitter in spring training by Boone. When Hicks went 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the season-opening series against the Blue Jays, Boone was asked if he would move Hicks down and sarcastically laughed at the media for asking the question, claiming Hicks would “be fine.” Less than two weeks later he was moved down in the order and after 34 games, he needed season-ending wrist surgery.

From 2016 through 2021, Hicks played in 493 of a possible 870 regular-season games (57 percent). From 2019 (when he got the extension) through 2021, Hicks played in 145 of a possible 384 regular-season games (38 percent). He has experienced just about every injury a baseball player can experience in going on seven seasons as a Yankee.

6. The only time Hicks has missed in 2022 has been due to paternity leave for the birth of his son.

Having a baby is obviously no joke. Whether or not Hicks makes $10 million to play baseball, he still has a one-month-old at home consuming a lot of his time and drastically altering his life and routine. I have a 20-month-old and a one-month-old and every minute of my life I feel like I have the bases loaded with no outs against me and Mike Trout, Juan Soto and Bryce Harper are due up. I get it.

Or at least I would get it if Hicks sucking in 2022 was solely tied to his performance in home games when he’s living and sleeping at home and prone to middle-of-the-night wakings. But Hicks is hitting .229/.386/.314 at home and .177/.297/.194 on the road. He’s been replacement level at home and Kyle Higashioka on the road.

7. Hicks is a problem. He’s nearly always been a problem, though in the past his problem was that he was never healthy and provided mediocre production when he was healthy and the baseball wasn’t juiced. Now he’s healthy, but he sucks, and this is a new level of suck. Hicks went into this season claiming on CC Sabathia’s podcast that he wanted to be a 30/30 guy. Yes, a guy who never stole more than 13 bases in a season and only ever exceeded 15 home runs in a season in 2019 when the ball was juiced and Gleyber Torres hit 38 and Brett Gardner 28 thought he would suddenly become a superstar.

Hicks has one double and one home run this season. In 2021, coming off a shortened season and the elbow surgery, he posted a .627 OPS before the wrist injury. It’s not unfair to attribute to his lack of power to the wrist surgery which ended his 2021 season in May, but it’s not like he’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa and hitting a bunch of singles with no power. He’s just not hitting at all. He’s hitting .196/.331/.237 in 2022 with his one quality being his ability to not chase pitches and draw walks, however, he has now walked once in the last 10 days.

Last year, Hicks was given a pass as he worked on being further removed from Tommy John. This season, his power outage is being given a pass as he works on being further removed from the wrist surgery. By next year, there will likely be some other pass being given for some other injury. Hicks gets hurt. That’s what he does.

8. Luckily for Hicks, like Higashioka, Jose Trevino, Kiner-Falefa, Joey Gallo and Torres a lot of the time, the Yankees are winning. The Yankees aren’t winning because of Hicks. He has done essentially nothing to help the team win and has actively hurt them both at the plate with runners on base and in the field with questionable (and at times appalling) defense. But if the Yankees hit a skid at some point, which they likely will unless they truly are going to challenge the 1998 Yankees in terms of success, the criticism will come for Hicks and the others. It comes with the territory of losses. I’m the most critical person of the Yankees I know on a daily basis, and even I was accepting of a loss like Thursday’s given the team’s 28-10 record. If the Yankees don’t keep winning the anti-Hicks sentiment will increase dramatically. He’s being given a free pass right now to work through his offensive issues, and it would be nice if he takes advantage of this sort of grace period before any regression for the team comes.

9. Like every other Yankee that causes me to lose sleep, Hicks didn’t force the Yankees to trade for them. Didn’t force them to play him every day. Didn’t force them to give him a seven-year extension. Didn’t force them to continue to go into each season believing they will get a full healthy and productive season from him. If Hicks were always batting sixth or lower in the lineup, getting the occasional runner in from third with less than two outs and playing a sound center field, no fan would have a problem with him. But because the Yankees feel the need to bat him first and third and try to make him into something he’s not, he’s prone to the criticism that comes with batting in the top half of the order for the New York Yankees. Couple that with his questionable defense this season and the lack of trust Yankees fans have for him after the oft-injured previous six seasons and you get an unruly fan base spending most of their day dreaming of his release.

I want to like Hicks. I want him to be able to make contact with a changeup when hitting from the left side. I want him to get good jumps on balls hit to him. I want him to throw the ball to the right base with runners on. I want Hicks to stay healthy and succeed because I want the Yankees to succeed.

10. After a successful series in Baltimore, the Yankees still have the best record in baseball (2 1/2 games better than the Dodgers) and have five-game lead in the AL East. To win at the rate the Yankees have and only have a five-game lead is depressing. (The Yankees would have a 10-game lead in NL East.)

The White Sox-Orioles stretch continues. After four games against the White Sox in Chicago and three games against the Orioles in Baltimore, the Yankees will now host the White Sox for three and then the Orioles for three. After that, it’s the much anticipated four-game series in Tampa against the Yankees’ closest division competition. Two more series wins at home before heading to the Trop isn’t an unreasonable expectation. Given the way the Yankees have played and the two opponents they will play, just winning both series seems like too low of a bar to reach.

Subscribe to the Keefe To The City Podcast.

My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!