New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman recently made a solid decision by choosing to extend Aaron Hicks, but his initial decision to trade for the star outfielder in 2015 may have been even better.
On Monday, the New York Yankees agreed to a seven-year, $70 million extension with outfielder Aaron Hicks. The extension will keep Hicks in the Bronx through at least the 2025 season and contains a team option for the 2026 season.
Although Hicks has established himself as one of the best outfielders in the American League during his time with the Yankees, he was initially acquired from the Minnesota Twins in November of 2015 in exchange for catcher John Ryan Murphy. During his time with the Twins, Hicks compiled 56 extra base hits alongside a .225/.306/.349 slash-line in 928 trips to the plate.
Even though he held a meager .201/.293/.313 slash-line during his first 150 games with the Twins, he improved to a .256/.323/.398 slash-line throughout his last 97 games in Minnesota. As the Yankees had an outfield contingent of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran heading into the 2016 season, the organization decided to increase their outfield depth by acquiring the switch-hitting Hicks.
The previously mentioned Murphy was the only player sent to Minnesota to complete the trade. Although Murphy showed promise on the offensive side with a .277/.327/.406 slash-line through 162 plate appearances in 2015 with the Yankees, he was an expendable asset with Brian McCann and Austin Romine already in the fold, and Gary Sanchez nearby in the minor leagues.
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Following the trade, Murphy only managed to put together a .146/.193/.220 slash-line through 90 plate appearances at the big league level in 2016 for his new team. During the same season, Hicks put together a .217/.281/.336 slash-line through 361 plate appearances. Although both players put together a negative WAR during this season, Hicks looked to be the more promising player of the two heading into 2017.
In fact, the Twins quickly moved on from Murphy when they sent him to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for left-handed pitcher Gabriel Moya ahead of the 2017 season.
Throughout the last two seasons, Murphy put together a .200/.241/.372 slash-line through 230 plate appearances in Arizona. During this same time frame, Moya put together a 4.64 ERA, 5.04 FIP, and a 1.289 WHIP through 42 appearances (6 starts) in Minnesota.
As the performances of Murphy and Moya have been nothing to write home about to this point, this trade has worked out very well for the Yankees, especially due to the development of Hicks over the last two seasons. During 2017, Hicks put together a slash-line of .266/.372/.475 with 15 home runs and 18 doubles through 361 plate appearances.
During the 2018 season, his slash-line dipped a bit to .248/.366/.467, but he was able to compile 27 home runs and 18 doubles through 581 plate appearances alongside 79 runs batted in and 90 runs scored. As Hicks put together a combined 8.6 WAR during 2017 and 2018, and as Murphy and Moya put together a combined -0.4 WAR (-0.6 for Murphy, 0.2 for Moya) during the same time frame, it is safe to say the New York Yankees came out on top in this trade.