While the Yankees strive to retain their superstar leader in free agency, New York is reportedly hoping to part ways with two veterans that struggled in pinstripes this season.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Yankees will "work hard" to "get rid" of third baseman Josh Donaldson and outfielder Aaron Hicks this offseason.
Donaldson, acquired in the Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Gary Sánchez trade last spring with the Twins, is scheduled to make $21 million in 2023. He had a tremendous campaign on defense at the hot corner in 2022—the third baseman should've been nominated for a Gold Glove Award—but his offensive numbers were a disappointment and his presence caused more controversy than chemistry.
Hicks, who signed a massive extension worth $70 million before the 2019 season, is still under contract until at least the 2025 season. As of now, he'll make $10.5 million in 2023, $29.5 million over the next three years (with a $1 million trade assignment bonus and $1 million buyout attached to his club option for the 2026 campaign). The switch-hitting outfielder had his moments, and finally stayed healthy this year (until the postseason), but his slumps were extensive and the boos at Yankee Stadium were Joey Gallo-esque.
In other words, it'll be extremely difficult to find a trade partner that's willing to take on those contracts. Unless a team wants to take a chance on Donaldson's defense and track record or Hicks' plate discipline and self-proclaimed potential for a 30-30 season, New York will have trouble finding a team interested in those assets.
It's possible another club could return the favor with a heavy contract of their own. Sherman brought up the likes of Nationals starter Patrick Corbin and Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner. New York would be offloading position players while adding an aging arm that they might be able to fix to their talented staff. Still, the Yankees will need to seriously consider simply cutting ties and eating the cost attached to one or both of those players.
There's also an argument to keeping them. Again, Donaldson had an exemplary season on defense—a big reason why New York was the best team in baseball in defensive runs saved this year—and when he started to heat up on offense, you saw flashes of his powerful past. Can the slugger bounce back in 2023, his age-37 season? Owner Hal Steinbrenner seems to think so.
As for Hicks, New York can keep him as their backup outfielder. Remember, there's still a gaping hole in left field on this club's roster at the moment. All signs point toward the Yankees attacking the open market this winter. They can try to bring Andrew Benintendi back, sign Japanese superstar Masataka Yoshida or reel in another outfielder like Brandon Nimmo. Otherwise, you're looking at a mix of Hicks and prospect Oswaldo Cabrera in left field for the Yankees at the moment.
Speaking of bouncing back, here's what Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Hicks during his end-of-season presser earlier this month.
"He'll be back and healthy," Cashman said, dodging a follow-up regarding the possibility that Hicks could be moved this winter. "He's signed under contract. He'll come back and try to take and earn a position back and a place that we can count on. He does have the ability, we just weren't able to tap into it consistently this past year and I know he was frustrated by that."
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