Hicks trade latest example of Yankees trend
Cashman hoping move has similar results as Didi deal last offseason
NEW YORK -- The Yankees continue to be, in Brian Cashman's words, "open to anything" as the Hot Stove market develops. In years past, that would have suggested wielding a heavy checkbook as their primary weapon, but the general manager has a new preferred tactic in adding flexibility to an aging roster.
This week's acquisition of switch-hitting outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Twins for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy continued a trend of Cashman dealing from strength to chase down young talent around the league -- a strategy that has thus far proven beneficial for the Yankees.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius took a major step forward in his development this past season after being acquired from the D-backs in a three-way trade that cost the Yanks right-hander Shane Greene, and Cashman believes that the Hicks move will follow that example.
"We feel that he's been perceived at a very high level for a number of years," Cashman said. "He hit the big leagues at a younger than typical age because of his abilities, and we believe he's figured a lot of things out in the last year -- kind of a little bit like Didi with us.
"Didi came into our environment with a lot of veteran players who put their arms around him a little bit and allowed him to kind of grow underneath that veteran presence."
Gregorius said that Stephen Drew often offered him pointers at shortstop, and Cashman said that Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez deserved credit for assisting Gregorius off the field. Similarly, Hicks said that veteran Torii Hunter helped him "learn how to be a man" in Minnesota.
The Yankees remain a presence on the open market, spending big on Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury and Beltran two seasons ago, while investing in Chase Headley and Andrew Miller last year, but Cashman has acknowledged that he is constrained by some of the large free-agent expenditures of years past.
The Gregorius and Hicks deals fall in line with Cashman's recent moves to add upside in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, infielder Dustin Ackley and left-hander Justin Wilson, all of which involved shipping out young talent that they deemed expendable.
As Cashman put it, "I wasn't going to trade John Ryan Murphy for an old guy."
The Wilson deal, which sent catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates, turned out to be a win for both sides. It also marked the second consecutive year that the Yankees subtracted from their catching depth, though Cashman said it wasn't by design to build up that position for use as trade assets.
"Sometimes you get a period of time where you have a ton of players in a similar position," Cashman said. "Years gone by, it was the shortstop position behind [Derek] Jeter; we had [Alfonso] Soriano and D'Angelo Jimenez. There was a period of time we had Hal Morris and Kevin Maas piled up at first base behind Don Mattingly."
Eovaldi showed encouraging signs this year, having come from the Marlins with two players at the price of right-hander David Phelps and infielder Martin Prado, while the Yanks picked up Ackley from the Mariners for outfielder Ramon Flores and reliever Jose Ramirez.
The moves provided a nice complement to the breakouts of rookies Greg Bird and Luis Severino, hinting at what could be a new core to come. This week's moves offer more flexibility to continue reshaping, perhaps by dangling outfielder Brett Gardner in hopes of bringing back an even more substantial return.
"I don't have anybody who is untouchable," Cashman said. "You've heard me say it to the point where you want to puke, but some guys are more touchable than others. At the end of the day, I am legitimately open to any idea."