Injury was always the biggest threat to the Yankees’ decision to hand Aaron Hicks a seven-year contract and his back issues could make it an awful deal.
When the New York Yankees made the decision to sign Aaron Hicks to a seven-year, $70 million extension this offseason it was clear they wanted him to be their center fielder of the present and future. Unfortunately, Hicks’ back issues may cause the contract to turn into an awful investment for the Yankees.
The revelation that Hicks is now suffering from “chronic back pain” is awful news for the organization. The 29-year-old outfielder pulled himself out of Spring Training action several weeks ago after experiencing some back tightness. Two cortisone shots later, the doctors have informed him that he’ll likely struggle with this muscular issue for the rest of his career.
Critics of the Hicks extension were already understandably concerned about giving him a long-term contract. He’s never really been a durable player throughout his MLB career. The 137 games he played for the Yankees last season represented a career high. Injuries have limited him to under 100 games in four of his seasons in the big leagues.
It’s fair to wonder what the ideal workload will be for Hicks moving forward. If manager Aaron Boone is forced to protect him from injury by providing him extra rest it’s going to greatly diminish his value as a player. In the short-term, that’s going to put a ton of pressure on Brett Gardner to patrol center field a lot more than the Yankees had intended coming into the season. Long-term, it may increase the need to get Estevan Florial to the majors sooner than expected.
It’s too early to think that Hicks’ deal may end up just as bad as the Jacoby Ellsbury contract, but hearing the words “chronic pain” associated with a player that recently received such a big, long-term contract will almost certainly have general manager Brian Cashman suffering from flashbacks. Hicks isn’t making the same salary that Ellsbury is fortunate enough to earn, but if back issues force him to be a part-time player it will certainly be one of the worst contracts on the Yankees roster.
The organization has to hope that Hicks can find a routine that allows him to play through his back issues for as long as possible. Investing a lot of money into a player with a chronic injury is almost always going to turn out poorly though. Hicks’ contract is likely going to become a negative asset for the Yankees very soon.