The Yankees announced that veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks, whom they designated for assignment earlier this week, has now been released.
Hicks is in the fifth season of a seven-year, $70MM contract that didn’t pan out nearly as well as the Yankees hoped. The former first-round pick and top prospect hit .255/.368/.470 (128 wRC+) with 42 home runs for the Yankees from 2017-18, and he gave them a respectable .231/.350/.431 output in the 2019-20 seasons. Since that time, however, his offensive production has cratered as injuries have mounted. Hicks hit just .188/.263/.261 in 76 plate appearances this season and is a .209/.315/.310 hitter in 655 plate appearances dating back to 2021.
For all his struggles, Hicks has generally graded as an average or better left fielder in recent years. His once-excellent defense in center field has faded, but he posted a hefty 8 Defensive Runs Saved through just 413 innings in left field as recently as 2022. The switch-hitter hasn’t had success regardless of opponent in 2022-23, but Hicks had a decent showing against lefties in 2021 and has a career .247/.327/.415 batting line as a right-handed hitter facing lefties. He’s also walked in 12.5% of his 3352 Major League plate appearances, including an above-average 9.2% walk rate even in the midst of this year’s freefall at the dish.
Hicks clearly isn’t the player he was at his peak, but now that he’s been released and the Yankees are going to be stuck picking up the tab, he’d make some sense for an outfield-needy club — particularly one seeking some help against left-handed pitching. Hicks is hardly a lock to rediscover any of his former production, but it won’t cost another team much to see if escaping the Yankee Stadium spotlight and the constant scrutiny surrounding his contract and diminished play can help him rebound to at least some extent. He certainly wouldn’t be the first player to rebuild some stock after leaving the Yankees for a lower-pressure environment.
The Yankees remain on the hook for the rest of this year’s $10.5MM salary and will also owe Hicks a $9.5MM salary in each of the next two seasons, plus a $1MM buyout on a 2026 club option. Any team that wants to sign Hicks will only owe him the prorated league minimum for any time spent on the big league roster. That sum will be subtracted from the Yankees’ obligation to Hicks, but even if Hicks catches on with a new club and sticks on the roster moving forward, the Yanks are stuck with the overwhelming majority of that contract.