Why the Yankees were smart to extend Aaron Hicks

Posted By: TBP

Why the Yankees were smart to extend Aaron Hicks - 04/03/2019 00:14

The Yankees' 7-year, $70 million extension for Aaron Hicks is a smart move. He's reminiscent of Bernie Williams and Roy White.

Hicks’ importance to the success of the team cannot be overstated.

While Hicks’ seven-year, $70 million contract extension might be viewed as a continuation of the organization’s strategy of raising the floor, there could actually be more to it than that. Based on WAR totals from the last two years, only Mike Trout and Lorenzo Cain outperformed Hicks in center field. Sure, Trout nearly doubled Hicks’ production. But Hicks outproduced standout center fielders like Charlie Blackmon, Ender Inciarte, Kevin Pillar, and Jackie Bradley Jr. — despite playing only 225 games.

Hicks reminds me of Bernie Williams. Bernie made his debut in 1991 at age 22, but took some time to blossom into a star. Williams finally exploded with 6.4 WAR during his age-26 campaign in 1995, and subsequently became a perennial All-Star. He frequently earned down-ballot MVP Award votes, and notched a seventh-place finish in 1998 when he won the AL batting title with a .339 average.

Williams compiled 41.6 WAR over an eight-year stretch beginning in 1995, which averages out to about 5.2 per year. Perhaps most importantly, Bernie was a model of consistency, as he dipped below 5.0 WAR only twice during that run. He produced 4.0 WAR in 1996 and 4.5 in 2002. Bernie’s contributions proved absolutely critical to the Yankees’ success during that period.

Roy White comes to mind as another long-time Yankees outfielder. White arrived in the late 1960s as Mickey Mantle was fading, but became the mainstay of a rebuild that culminated in the late-70s dynasty. White produced 47.3 WAR over a 10-year period beginning in 1968. He averaged 4.7 WAR per year over that stretch, while topping out at 6.8 WAR and never dipping below 3.2.

Williams and White were two iconic Yankees players who each anchored a dynasty. While both fell short of putting up Hall of Fame-worthy numbers, each played an indispensable role on some of the most successful teams in franchise history. I can easily envision Hicks becoming that kind of producer for the Yankees, if he can find a way to stay healthy.
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