Please assign a menu to the primary menu location under menu


How Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino explain the last four Yankees seasons – Boston Herald


The Yankees are approaching the four-year anniversary of two decisions that have left their fingerprints all over the postseason disappointment, clunky roster fits and underperformance that has defined the club’s recent history.

In February 2019, general manager Brian Cashman handed out two contract extensions. One went to Luis Severino just days before his 25th birthday, adding four more years to Severino’s tenure for a modest $40 million. After back-to-back sterling seasons in 2017 and 2018, during which he threw 384.2 combined innings with a 3.18 ERA and established himself as one of the best pitchers in the world, Severino signing on for four more years made sense for both the player and the organization.

Just one month after putting pen to paper, though, Severino’s shoulder started barking. That held him out for the beginning of that year, then a lat strain tacked on six more weeks to his recovery process. He didn’t pitch in a game setting at all until September, making one minor league rehab start and three in the big leagues, trying to save what had clearly become a lost season. Two gutsy postseason outings followed before the big injury finally arrived, forcing Severino into Tommy John surgery that wiped out all of 2020 and most of his 2021 as well.

Even with the unfortunately timed injuries, the decision to give Severino that extension was a wise one. Nobody can deny how impactful Severino is when he’s healthy. Everything from his raw stuff to his attitude to his mound presence demonstrates that this is one of the game’s premiere talents. The Yankees exercising his $15 million option for 2023 was a no-brainer as well, given how well he bounced back in 2022 and the fact that he’s still just 28 years of age. Letting someone like that hit the open market could have easily meant never getting him back.

Injuries, unfortunately, are also an unavoidable talking point when discussing the other deal the Yankees struck in 2019, one that has gone about as badly as any reasonable person could have expected. Downtrodden fans know the details by heart: seven years and $70 million, including a club option for 2026 that has a lesser chance of being picked up than the U.S. men’s team winning that summer’s World Cup.

Since earning that gargantuan contract, Aaron Hicks has been worth 3.2 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs. That’s a whole win fewer than the 4.3 he put up in 2018 alone, which will go down as one of the more legendary grifts in Yankee history. Hicks thumped 27 homers and drove in 79 runs during that 2018 season, becoming a trusty starting center fielder still in his late-20s.

Now 33, Hicks has hit 30 home runs and knocked in 111 runs in the four seasons since getting his big raise. Those are the type of numbers the Yankees were likely hoping Hicks would put up every year rather than over the course of 275 games. From 2019 to 2022, those 275 games (out of a possible 546) have resulted in a pitiful .220/.334/.367 hitting line for Hicks. Anthony Rizzo has more extra base hits for the Yankees during the same time frame despite being on the team for just a season and change. Three people who did not play a single game for the Yankees in 2022 — Brett Gardner, Gio Urshela and Luke Voit — outpace Hicks on the WAR leaderboard. While FanGraphs’ version of WAR heavily weighs catcher defense, Jose Trevino is ahead of Hicks too after just one tour of duty in the Bronx.

From the very outset of Hicks’ contract, things felt off. A back injury held him to just four spring training games in 2019, then kept him off the Opening Day roster. He didn’t make his first appearance of that year until May, and his brief clean bill of health was interrupted by an elbow injury in September. Though he recovered to play most of the 2020 season (and hit well), 2021 was less kind, bringing a nasty wrist injury. Hicks was healthy for most of this most recent campaign, but he never truly looked right outside of a short spell in July.

Injuries are a curious thing. On the one hand, they can be regarded as fluky happenstances with no real way to prevent or prepare for. On the other hand, in addition to Severino and Hicks’ problems, the Yankees have struggled to keep Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu healthy as well. No matter how bulletproof a team thinks their roster is — and the 2022 Yankees certainly looked that way for much of the first half until injuries, again, ruined that — it doesn’t do them any good if it’s not on the field. Several players have underwhelmed, but the training staff needs to get better at their job too.

Heading into next season, which is the last one in which the Yankees have Severino under their control, he and Hicks find themselves in very different situations. Severino both has a lot left in the tank and can still legitimately be considered an All-Star-caliber player, while Hicks is four years older and can no longer be in the lineup if the Yankees are serious about contending.

As much as it shouldn’t — the Yankees are worth an estimated six billion dollars, remember — the financial commitment they made to Hicks has likely hamstrung them in the pursuit of other helpful pieces. With huge figures heading to Judge, Stanton and Gerrit Cole’s bank account, this team has sat idly while their competitors chase after big-money free agent hitters. Touching that stove has burnt them before, and the mark is still red and smarting all these years later.

The Severino choice was a smart one, but the Yankees did not exactly get their full return on that investment either. In hindsight, one of the February 2019 deals was good practice, bad luck, while the other was an overzealous, somewhat reckless gamble on an outfielder they already knew was injury prone from his days in Minnesota. Even if the Yankees stash Hicks on the bench — which, to be clear, is where he should be until he can prove he’s a valuable MLB player again — they can’t erase his negative effects on their payroll and front office’s collective psyche.

This is not to pile on Hicks, who is a nice man that is certainly not sabotaging his employer intentionally. What he has done, whether this is fair or not, is put the Yankees in a position where they clearly don’t like throwing lavish multi-year deals at hitters anymore, lest they become Aaron Hicks 2.0.

That’s a very unfortunate situation for a team that so desperately needs to improve, something that could be achieved by getting a few tasty free agent hitters.



Source link