The New York Yankees and center fielder Aaron Hicks have agreed to a 7 year, $70 million contract extension, it was announced today. The deal replaces Hicks’ 1 year, $6 million deal for the 2019 season.
Hicks, 29, was a first round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2008, but was something of a disappointment before being traded to the Yankees prior to the 2016 season for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Hicks put up a 617 OPS and a negative bWAR in 2016, but has excelled since then, with an 838 OPS and 8.6 bWAR in 225 games in the past two seasons.
This is an interesting deal, as it basically buys out 6 free agent years, for his ages 30-35 seasons, for $64 million, with a 2026 team option for $12.5 million with a $1 million buyout. Hicks has been worth more than $10M per year his past two seasons, and so there’s an argument to be made that he is leaving significant money on the table. However, Hicks has a spotty track record prior to 2017, and there’s a legitimate question about whether he’s a late bloomer, or someone who is putting up a couple of quality seasons in his peak years before going back to being an average or less player.
For the Yankees, making this a long term deal, where they are paying more than Hicks would likely get in his mid-30s seasons to get his early-30s years for less, helps them manage their luxury tax figure, since the total deal is amortized over the life of the contract. This makes it easier to stay under the luxury tax, or minimize their luxury tax penalties, than, say, a 3 year, $40 million extension would.