Extremely few things cause me indigestion. Talk about a team “eating” money to be rid of an unproductive or faded player is one of them. Such talk erupted again when the Yankees, come Saturday, designated outfielder Aaron Hicks for assignment. It isn’t just fans who don’t know better talking that way. It’s also professional analysts who should.
“You don’t have to understand or agree with the replacement-level concept to agree on this much: there are scores of minor-league outfielders who, given the opportunity, could provide the Yankees with more than Hicks has to date. Just eat the money already,” writes CBS Sports’s R.J. Anderson.
“It’ll be a costly move for the Yankees, with Hicks still owed $19.57MM by way of $9.8MM salaries in 2024-25, and a $1MM buyout on a $12.5MM club option for 2026. He’ll also be owed the remainder of his $10.8MM salary in 2023,” wrote MLB Trade Rumors‘s Simon Hampton. “Hicks will now be exposed to waivers, but his struggles this year and the remaining money owed make it a near certainty he goes unclaimed. Instead, the Yankees could offer to eat the remainder of his contract and try and trade him to another team, or he could be released once he clears waivers.”
Pass the Pepto-Bismol, please. For me. It’s too late for the Yankees regarding Hicks.
Remember when the Diamondbacks bit the bullet and released thoroughly collapsed pitcher Russ Ortiz? The Associated Press said flatly enough that the Snakes decided they’d rather “eat” the $22 million they still owed Ortiz than keep him taking up roster space. Remembering that, Keith Law (in The Inside Game) tried to remind us: they ate nothing.
“That salary was already somewhere in Arizona’s GI tract, likely causing indigestion but there nonetheless,” Law wrote. “Major League Baseball player contracts are guaranteed; there is no way to un-eat that meal.”
Notice that almost no one was talking about somebody eating Eric Hosmer’s contract after the Cubs designated the veteran but fading first baseman earlier the same week? Cynically, you could say it’s because $700,000+ (his MLB-minimum Cub salary) is a mere appetiser compared to the $144 million banquet to which the Padres signed Hosmer during spring training 2018.
That was an eight-year deal which has through the end of the 2016 to run. Some said the Padres elected to eat the rest when they traded Hosmer to the Red Sox last August and sent the Red Sox the last $44 million owed on the deal. Those with something more than mashed potatoes for brains could remind you: the Padres planted that meal down their tract the day they signed him in the first place.
The Yankees thought Hicks would be a good fit after landing him for the 2016 season because he looked like a solid hitter who didn’t strike out a lot compared to a lot of others at the time, and because he had a live-looking throwing arm in the outfield. They didn’t bargain on injury-disrupted seasons that came to bring forth the worst in Yankee fans still struggling with the presence of even more injury-battered Jacoby Ellsbury.
It didn’t help that Hicks wasn’t quite as good as his notices when he could play, though he did have his moments—and a 2018 season solid enough to encourage the Yankees to sign him to a seven-year, $70 million contract extension plus the aforementioned option years during spring training 2019. The fact that he had some pop, wasn’t shy about taking walks, and didn’t strike out in big volume didn’t hurt, either.
In the first three years of the deal, Hicks missed significant time with injuries (wrist, back, elbow) each of the three and, perhaps unsurprisingly, didn’t play particularly well when he could play. In center field he was about league average for run prevention and for getting to balls in the first place; at the plate, he might have prayed to improve all the way up to league average.
At 33 it might seem that history of injury and inconsistency might put paid to Hicks’s major league career soon enough. Unless he’s willing to accept a purely platoon role on a team needing inexpensive help against portside pitching. (Hicks is a switch hitter but he’s been a little stronger batting righthanded.)
The Yankees finally surrendered after swinging a trade with their most hated rivals (in Boston) to bring aboard outfielder Greg Allen and needing room for him on the roster. Allen isn’t much of a hitter but he’s considered a plus outfield defender and swift on the bases—if he gets there in the first place. (Lifetime on-base percentage: .299.)
The meal has been somewhere between the Yankee belly and the intestines since 2019. They finally, simply, put the lime in the coconut to relieve the bellyache.