Yankees extend Aaron Hicks
A couple weeks ago the Yankees signed Luis Severino to an extension as they began the process of trying to lock up as much of their young core as possible. Aaron Hicks doesn’t really count in the same category as a part of the “young core,” but he’s going to be in pinstripes for a long time. On Monday morning, New York came out of nowhere and announced a seven-year, $70 million extension with their center fielder. This is an absolutely fascinating contract for the underrated outfielder who was set to hit free agency after the 2019 season. Hicks had spent the early parts of his career disappointing in Minnesota, but over the last two seasons he has broken out in a huge way. He’s never going to hit for a high average, which might hold down his perceived value in a mainstream sense, but he’s one of the most patient players in all of baseball and gets on-base at a high clip despite the low batting averages. He also provides well above-average power, can run the bases a bit and plays good defense in center field. Him being locked down by the Yankees is not good for Red Sox fans.
It’s a fascinating contract, though, because it sort of hits you in two waves. At least, that’s how it hit me. First, it was about the years. How does Hicks get seven years? Teams are wary about giving Bryce Harper and Manny Machado seven years! Hicks is 29! Then you see it’s only $10 million per year, and it clicks. Yeah, he probably won’t perform for the length of his contract, but he only needs to perform for a few years to live up to the terms. If he does fall off three or four years, the Yankees will be able to afford this overpay. It won’t be a Jacoby Ellsbury situation (which they can also afford because they are the Yankees, but it’s still much more embarrassing). All in all, this is a very good deal for New York, and Hicks gets some nice long-term security. Reports indicate Dellin Betances is next on the docket for the Yankees.
Kris Bryant speaks out about service time manipulation
Over the next month or so leading up to the start of the regular season, one of the biggest stories around the game will be the manipulation of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s service time, as well as that of Eloy Jiménez. These are two of the best prospects in baseball who are undoubtedly ready for the majors — they were ready last fall — and everyone knows they are going to start the season in the minors for two weeks in order for teams to gain an extra year of control. Not many players know better about this practice than Kris Bryant, who was held down by the Cubs when he was first ready to come up and filed a grievance in response. On Monday, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic spoke to Bryant about the phenomenon, and the Cubs star had some strong words. It’s behind a paywall so I won’t give away too much, but the general tone was anger and frustration.
Instead, I want to take this chance to speak very quickly about this entire topic since it won’t really come up with the Red Sox this year. Look, I understand that in the grand scheme of things it’s not the biggest deal. In almost every one of these cases, these players are going to become stars and make a lot of money. Bryant, for example, is one of the richest players through two arb years of all time. That being said, this is still mind-numbing and a practice that needs to be changed. The argument that bothers me the most around this entire situation is the idea that the players agreed to it so they need to suck it up. They didn’t! There’s a reason teams always say the guys being held down need to work on their defense or some other garbage excuse. They are required to act in good faith here, and if they say they are holding a player down for service time reasons they open themselves up to grievance they could realistically lose. I also hate hearing that it’s only two weeks, because that’s not always the case. With Guerrero and Jiménez, it will be at least six weeks since both should have been up by September 1 last year. At what point does it become too much? Something has to change here, because it seems as though there is at least one of these cases every year now, and it’s not a conversation that is going to get people excited about baseball.