Yankees acquire Hicks from Twins for Murphy
Strong defensive, switch-hitting outfielder was first-round Draft pick in 2008
NEW YORK -- The Yankees continued a busy start to the offseason on Wednesday afternoon, acquiring outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Twins in exchange for catcher John Ryan Murphy.
The 26-year-old Hicks provides the club with a switch-hitter capable of playing all three outfield positions well, while potentially opening the door for the Yankees to make a larger splash later in the offseason.
"This is an independent, straight up, good old-fashioned baseball trade -- a lot of talent for a lot of talent," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I think Minnesota got a good player, and I certainly hope we got a good player. It provides us flexibility as we move forward to do some things, but that's not why I did the trade."
Hicks batted .256 (90-for-352) with 11 doubles, 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in 97 games for Minnesota in 2015. His success against left-handed pitching suggests an end to Chris Young's time in pinstripes, while Brett Gardner has also been drawing trade interest around the big leagues.
At the least, Hicks is more cost-effective than Young, who will seek a raise over the $2.5 million he earned in 2015. Facing left-handers in 2015, Hicks batted .307 (31-for-101) with six homers and has hit .272 (62-for-228) with 10 homers in his career off left-handers.
A former first-round pick of the Twins in 2008, Hicks offers a promising blend of power, speed and defensive ability. Cashman said that the Yankees view him as an everyday player in terms of talent, and suggested that Hicks could be primed for a leap forward like the one Didi Gregorius enjoyed this past year.
"I think he had his coming out party last year and showed up as a viable, everyday Major League player," Cashman said.
Cashman said that the Yankees value Gardner and that he would not be "an easy get," but a swap involving the 32-year-old Gardner represents one of the few ways that the club can become more flexible for 2016. Gardner has three years and $39.5 million remaining on his contract.
The New York Post reported on Wednesday that the Yankees and Mariners have discussed Gardner, but did not characterize those talks as being far along. The Yankees are seeking high-end starting pitching that they can control, and according to the report, Seattle is willing to dangle left-hander James Paxton.
It has been a productive trip to the GM Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., thus far for Cashman; earlier on Wednesday, the Yankees acquired 20-year-old right-hander Ronald Herrera from the Padres in exchange for infielder Jose Pirela.
"Our roster makes more sense at this moment than it did before we announced this deal," Cashman said. "We traded from an area of strength to shore up an area that became vacant, an area that's a perceived weakness."
As recently as Tuesday, manager Joe Girardi said that he was preparing to go into 2016 with Brian McCann and Murphy as his catching tandem, a plan which obviously must now change.
The 24-year-old Murphy batted .277 with nine doubles, one triple, three home runs, 14 RBIs and 21 runs scored in 67 games for New York this year. He projects to get an opportunity to start with the Twins.
"I think the Twins got an everyday catcher," Cashman said. "He was a backup for us because of Brian McCann, but he's an everyday catcher who we just matched up, area of strength for area of strength. So here we are."
Dealing Murphy represents a vote of confidence in touted prospect Gary Sanchez, who was the Arizona Fall Stars Game MVP. Sanchez turns 23 next month and is rated as the Yankees' No. 5 prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
"I think Gary Sanchez is going to play in the big leagues this year," Cashman said. "Whether he will or not, we'll have to wait and see. But we'll have guys sitting at Triple-A who are big league ready, just like we had John Ryan Murphy."