The deal contains a club option for the 2026 campaign and covers this season, which Hicks had previously agreed a contract for early this year.
Hicks is heading into his age-29 season and has suffered with injuries throughout his career. He played a career-high 137 games in 2018, earning him MVP votes. A 123 OPS+ was aided by great discipline, seeing only 10 players walk more than him across all of baseball.
Defence is the first concern with long contracts for centre fielders. Hicks recorded -4 outs above average last season. His future might be in left rather than centre, but that is not a pressing issue for the Yankees, who are clearly comfortable keeping him up the middle for now with Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton playing the corners.
Hicks has broken out in the last two seasons, having previously struggled to hit in the big leagues. As a switch-hitter, he breaks up a righty-heavy Yankees line-up. The length of the deal seems a little high for a late-bloomer with Hicks’ injury history.
If he performs at his 2017 and 2018 level for three or four seasons, though, it will quickly look like a steal. The Yankees, unlike most other franchises, can afford to swallow the back end of the contract if he tails off or if injuries see him miss too many games. It is a risk, but a relatively minor one for a franchise with the financial clout of the Yankees.
Yankees top prospect Estevan Florial is not expected to make the Majors for another couple of seasons. Hicks potentially blocks him in centre, though that is not a problem for the Yankees right now. This contract makes it easier to trade Florial, as has been rumoured in the past.
Brian Cashman clearly likes the core he has. Luis Severino has already been handed a long deal, Stanton is in pinstripes for ever and Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres are several years from free agency. Cashman has cost certainty with his key players and could hand out more extensions in the near future.
Hicks has been a crucial part of the Yankees resurgence in the last two seasons and replacing him was going to be a challenge. The upcoming outfield free agent class is weak, with Pittsburgh likely to pick up Starling Marte’s option and Adam Eaton potentially extending in Washington. Juan Lagares and Leonys Martin were the next best centre field options.
The years are alarming at first glance. The total cost makes it more bearable and easier to justify. The Yankees have control if Hicks remains effective in his mid-30s, and it’s cheap enough they can afford to cut ties if it does not work out. There was no route to landing a better centre fielder in the next two seasons.
A deal like this, for a 29-year-old with only two good seasons under his belt, would be concerning for the majority of MLB teams. For the Yankees, though, it is a shrewd move, solving a centre field problem before it arose.