Angels agree to deal with OF Aaron Hicks

January 30th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- The Angels added to their crowded outfield mix on Monday, but it was a low-cost and low-risk move, as they signed veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks to a one-year deal worth the league minimum of $740,000.

The move could have a ripple effect on what they plan to do with fellow outfielder Jo Adell, as he’s out of Minor League options and can’t be sent down without being exposed to waivers. And the Angels already have superstar Mike Trout, Taylor Ward and Mickey Moniak on the roster.

It could mean the Halos will look to trade a player from that group, but general manager Perry Minasian said he could see all five outfielders on the Opening Day roster.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Minasian said. “They're going to have opportunities to play, and obviously, Spring Training is going to be important. As currently constructed, we still have room for everyone.”

Hicks said on Tuesday that he was told by Minasian and manager Ron Washington that he will be an everyday player, seeing action at all three outfield spots and occasional time at designated hitter. But he later clarified, he only met that he's ready to play every day and hadn't been given any assurances about regular playing time. Minasian also said Trout will remain the club’s center fielder and that there are no plans to move him off the position.

“As far as fit goes, I think it was that the opportunity to come here and play pretty much every single day, to be able to play all three positions and also at the same time for me be close to my family in California,” Hicks said. “So, to come home is something I've always wanted to do. And the coaching staff, Ron Washington is somebody I’ve always wanted to play for."

The Halos were able to add Hicks cheaply because he’s still getting paid by the Yankees after inking a seven-year, $70 million extension in 2019. Hicks was released by New York in May, but he is being paid $9.78 million in both 2024 and '25 and is due a $1 million buyout in '26. Hicks, though, bounced back after signing with the Orioles, as the switch-hitter slashed .275/.381/.425 with seven homers, seven doubles and 31 RBIs in 65 games for the AL East champions.

Hicks said he didn’t change anything mechanically, but he was helped by getting more regular playing time, which he hopes to get with the Angels as well.

“He played really well for Baltimore after making the change from New York, and we saw a rejuvenated guy that can still really play,” Minasian said. “He can be productive. Just with the injuries he’s had over the last couple of years, we want to make sure we have quality depth there.”

Hicks, 34, is also a local product of Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., before he was selected by the Twins as the No. 14 overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft. He's a career .233/.332/.387 hitter with 108 homers, 120 doubles, 71 stolen bases and 387 RBIs in 963 games with the Twins (2013-15), Yankees (2016-2023) and Orioles ('23). He’s had trouble staying healthy, however, as he's only played in at least 130 games once in the last five seasons.

Hicks is also considered a strong defender who can play all three outfield positions. He also fares better against lefties with a career .758 OPS against southpaws and a career .702 OPS against right-handers. Last year, it was even more pronounced with a .970 OPS vs. lefties and .663 vs. righties.

“It was important and something we really looked at,” Minasian said. “There’s certain times where [manager Ron] Washington will play matchups. As far as somebody who really fit what we were looking for, he stood out."

If the Angels decide to go with a five-man outfield it would limit their flexibility. But Brandon Drury and Luis Rengifo can play multiple infield positions, which helps. However, in recent years, the Angels have generally stuck with a four-man outfield.

Adell could be the odd man out given his early career inconsistencies but Minasian said there’s still plenty of time to figure things out with the roster.

“If anyone has watched us over the last few years, things change by the day,” Minasian said. “So for us, it's to acquire as many quality players as we can to get as many different options as you can. Things have a funny way of sorting themselves out over the course of spring.”