If you ask any New York Yankees fan which players they wouldn’t want to see penciled into the 2023 Opening Day lineup, the answers would very likely be Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson, veterans who are currently the source of plenty of Yankees trade rumors. Hicks and Donaldson enjoyed solid years defensively but were abysmal at the plate in 2022, often ending up as the killer of many Yankees rallies this past season.
Hicks, who has posted an OPS below .700 in each of the last two seasons, and Donaldson, who cratered in the ALCS against the Houston Astros with a .077 batting average and 10 strikeouts, don’t have many supporters among Yankees fans at the moment.
Rumors have emerged that the Yankees have told rival clubs that both Donaldson and Hicks are available in trades- and that New York would be willing to eat portions of both players’ contracts.
It’s certainly possible that a Yankees trade could occur between now and Spring Training in February.
In fact, Cashman pulled off a buzzer-beating deal just last spring, agreeing to the deal that sent Donaldson to the Bronx with the Minnesota Twins last March.
However, given how late it is in the offseason, it’s far more likely that both of Hicks and Donaldson are staying put. But why?
Here are the main reasons why the Yankees won’t trade Donaldson or Hicks.
Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks’ Contracts
Yes, the Yankees could end up persuading a team that they’ll eat enough of one of Donaldson or Hicks’ contracts to make a trade more appealing.
Here’s the problem.
Hicks, 33, is due to be paid $10 million in 2023 while Donaldson stands to earn $21 million this upcoming season, with a 2024 club option that includes an $8 million buyout.
The New York Mets, who ate $19 million of catcher James McCann’s remaining salary in a recent trade with the Baltimore Orioles, went to great lengths to ensure that he would no longer be on the roster.
It’s hard to believe that the Yankees would go to the same lengths, though it may take a similar level of fiscal sacrifice to make this trade work.
New York might say they’re willing to swallow a portion of Hicks and Donaldson’s contracts, but the bill might simply be too high to foot.
Which brings us to our next problem.
Yankees Have No Takers For Hicks And Donaldson Trades
The Yankees simply haven’t been able to find a trade partner for either player. The fact that New York has had to entertain eating portions of the salaries to make any potential deals more palatable tells you all you need to know about the respective trade markets for Donaldson and Hicks.
Hicks has not only been ineffective when healthy- he’s also rarely been healthy, recently!
Since the 2021 season, Hicks has dealt with back, shin, wrist, hamstring, leg and knee injuries, with a wrist issue cutting his 2021 season short and a knee ailment forcing him to miss the ALCS against the Astros.
That means that opposing teams have to consider Hicks’ declining offensive profile- he’s posted wRC+ of 90 and 76 in each of the last two years, a stark contrast from the 121 number he averaged from 2017 to 2020- as well as his questionable health.
Meanwhile, Donaldson, 37, has played in 150 or more games just five times in his career. Four of those instances occurred in his age 27-30 seasons.
The baseball world has known that Donaldson presents an injury risk for quite some time now.
And that isn’t just going to go away as he continues to age.
That’s not to mention just how bad Donaldson- career-worst 27.1 percent strikeout rate and .682 OPS- was offensively in 2022.
So clearly, there aren’t many general managers rushing to their phones to call the Yankees about trades for these two.
And if New York doesn’t want to eat enough of their contracts, Yankees fans will have to accept the harsh reality that both Donaldson and Hicks are likely to be on the Opening Day roster.
The Yankees Seem To Believe In Bounce-Back Years For Both
Listen to general manager Brian Cashman talk about Donaldson and Hicks and you’ll learn as much.
About Donaldson, Cashman said that he believes the veteran third baseman “has game left” and committed to him as the team’s starter at the hot corner back in November.
About Hicks, Cashman recently said that he expects the veteran outfielder to be the Yankees’ starter in left field, adding that he is still “really talented.”
Of course, Cashman could be talking both players up in an attempt to increase their trade values.
However, one gets the sense that the Yankees, who rewarded Hicks with a $70 million contract in 2019 and talked up Donaldson after acquiring him last spring, are committed to seeing this through with both.
And who knows, the Yankees might really believe in bounce-back years for Donaldson and Hicks.
After all, Donaldson underachieved with the Twins and still posted a .829 OPS with 32 homers in 163 games played.
Hicks has a track record of production in the Bronx, something the club hasn’t forgotten.
Plus, both players were above-average defenders in 2022.
It’s not a stretch to think the Yankees really do believe what they’re saying about both Donaldson and Hicks.
And it could result in the club balking on trades for both, to the certain frustration of fans.