The Yankees saw something in Aaron Hicks and caught the Twins at the perfect time to swoop in for the mere cost of a player that's hanging in the game as a backup catcher.
With Hicks firmly putting himself on the map last season, he's looking to elevate his game one last level -- to elite status. The Yankees, who signed Hicks to a seven-year, $70 million extension Monday, clearly believe Hicks has the capacity reach that standing among the game's best.
"He has more gas in his tank, he has more mountains to climb," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "We're excited by a player who came here that wasn't a finished product and had a lot of upside. We engaged him on a lot of levels about the talent that we thought he possessed."
Hicks' progression has not come without its hiccups. The 29-year-old former first round draft pick overcame production issues early on in his Yankees tenure, which might have been due to the inability to find reps in a cluttered outfield. He also battled to stay on the field in 2017, missing 74 games, though the offensive promise began to bubble up when he took the field.
After missing 25 more games in 2018, it seems that the only thing that can keep Hicks down is his health.
Hicks established new career bests in multiple offensive categories in 2018 -- plate appearances (581), runs (90), home runs (27), RBI (79), walks (90) and OPS+ (123). His plate discipline has been at the forefront of his upswing, posting OBP marks of .372 and .366 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Maybe more importantly, Hicks figured out how to produce from both sides of the plate in 2018, notching an .846 OPS as a left-handed hitter and .801 OPS from the right side. Hicks had always been considered better against left-handed pitchers, making last season's results all the more impressive. It's especially important that Hicks maintain that balance, as he might find himself atop the Yankees lineup quite often.
Defensive metrics showed below average work from Hicks in 2018, though his marks were well above league average in 2017. Hicks covers his ground in center field and has a fine arm -- one that is strong enough to simply prevent base runners from bothering to test. At his age, Hicks should have at least a few more years left in center field, with a possible transition to a corner outfield spot toward the second half of his deal.
Hopefully, Hicks -- whose attention to his diet and exercise regimen have improved over the years -- can play in even more games in 2019 and in subsequent seasons. For the Yankees to be successful, the club needs him to be the daily table-setter with a bat that is downright lethal at any stage in a game, combined with the potential for superior defense in a prime position on the field.
In 2019, Hicks could finally reach the full promise the Twins saw when they drafted him -- elite five-tool talent -- abilities the Yankees are now capitalizing on because New York took the time Minnesota didn't want to in cultivating him.