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Article: Did The Twins Give Up On Hicks Too Soon?


Nick Nelson
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On Wednesday, the Twins traded away a 26-year-old former first round pick coming off a season in which he appeared to turn a corner in the majors.

 

Understandably, this has caused some to wonder whether the team is letting Aaron Hicks get away at the wrong time.In terms of upside, there's really no comparing Hicks and the player that Minnesota received back in the deal, John Ryan Murphy. In one corner you have a player with All Star potential; Hicks has all the tools necessary to be one of the league's better center fielders, boasting excellent defense and speed with a hint of power and solid plate approach. Murphy's realistic ceiling is average big-league catcher.

 

But when it comes to the likelihood of reaching those levels, Murphy is the far safer bet. In fact, he was basically already there this year at age 24, albeit in a fairly small sample size as part-time backup for New York. Hicks has teased and tantalized with his talent, and it appeared in the middle of the summer that he might finally be breaking through, but he fell back into a slump over the final two months. And for all the overall progress that he did show, he was still lousy as ever swinging from the left side, batting just .206 with a .596 OPS versus righties. When you're an offensive liability against two-thirds of the league's pitchers, that's a problem.

 

At this point, Hicks looks like a guy who simply won't hit enough to stick in a corner outfield spot, and center is spoken for here in Minnesota. If Byron Buxton isn't manning the position on Opening Day, he will be by year's end. Hicks is out of options next year meaning the Twins would have needed to roster him, and with so many other outfielders in the corner mix -- Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia, Max Kepler and now evidently Miguel Sano -- that obligation could have caused some issues next spring.

 

Still young and undoubtedly skilled, Hicks has a chance to become a nice player. I'm not sure he would've had much of an opportunity anymore with the Twins, where he may have very well ended up being a fourth outfielder or part-time starter in 2016. In New York, where the outfield situation is in flux and openings are available, his window is more open both short-term and long-term. Plus, the favorable dimensions at Yankee Stadium should play up his moderate power and he'll face less pressure to produce in a stronger overall lineup. This is a good move for Hicks.

 

Similarly, it's a good move for Murphy. The 24-year-old catcher was hopelessly blocked in New York -- now by veteran Brian McCann, who's signed through 2018, and down the road by 22-year-old Gary Sanchez, who is viewed as one of the game's better young upcoming backstops. In Minnesota, Murphy will have every opportunity to lock down a starting role, should he be up to the task. While his numbers might not pop out, I'm not sure his odds of becoming a serviceable starter are much lower than those of Hicks.

 

Here's a good way to look at the situation: In the minors, Hicks put up an .808 OPS in 605 games while Murphy put up a .733 OPS in 451 games. This year in the majors, 10 catchers made 300 or more plate appearances and posted an OPS of .733 or above. Twenty-two corner outfielders made 300 or more plate appearances with an OPS of .808 or above. Murphy is the rarer commodity, especially when viewed through the lens of a Twins organization that was deep on OF talent and absurdly low on catching depth.

 

Obviously we don't know what's going to happen going forward, but right now I view this as the Twins choosing Arcia over Hicks. At least one was bound to be gone by the end (or maybe even the beginning) of next season based on the outfield numbers crunch and the options situations. Hicks is coming off the better year and got a better return, whereas I still believe that Arcia offers more promise as a corner outfielder.

 

So I like the decision. Hicks might yet turn into a heck of a player, but it's tough to see how it was going to happen here. Murphy is a welcome addition and bolsters the organization's catching depth immensely, even if he never develops into a quality regular.

 

What do you think? Will trading Hicks come back to haunt Terry Ryan and the Twins?

 

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Great analysis Nick! We definitely over-value our own players here. Fans of all teams do this...part of the emotion of truly loving a team and having their players become your favorites. 

 

It sucks to see players we like moved, especially ones with the skill-set that Hicks does, but the reality is that us thinking of him as a potential All-Star is all projection, based on an extremely small sample size of actual production at the MLB level. The performance against RH pitching is the biggest thing most people leave out when discussing Hicks, and that is a glaring weakness.

 

If we get a league avg catcher in Murphy for the foreseeable future, that is a big win as we did not have one in the pipeline for a couple years at best. We have a lot of talented OF in the pipeline and this trade should allow us to focus on other positions to further improve this team.

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This stuff about being a "corner OF" is way the hell overblown. If other sluggers are present, and you actually have a big-time offensive CF, one doesn't need to worry about slugging coming from the corner OF. I straight up do not understand. Rosario isn't going to be a slugging corner OF either. And neither is Kepler. All of them are likely to be solid all-around players who are above average offensively and good to excellent defensively.

 

This "corner OF type" stuff just blows my mind.

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A couple of days later, I've settled into what I felt all along. I really think this is a good trade for both players and for both teams. We'll see how it plays out, but I get the logic, it's sound.

 

I want to see Hicks take off. If he does, I'll be happy for him.But there is some depth. They still have Rosario, Buxton, Arcia and Kepler. They could add a veteran for the short-term or encourage Danny Santana to get some time in the corner outfield spots too. 

 

They needed catching. Murphy's just 24 and could be the starter by June. I'd expect Suzuki and Murphy to split time in the first couple of months, but for Murphy to take maybe 2/3 of the starts after that.

 

We shall see.

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There were rumors of a Zack Greinke deal that would have been led by Aaron Hicks as the top prospect. In hindsight that would have been a better idea.

Greinke is a Free agent who would have been a one-month rental and the Dodgers needed him badly. He would already be gone along with Hicks; and Murphy would still be on the Yankees.

Find the guy who told you that rumor, and tell him for me that he is clueless.

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Greinke is a Free agent who would have been a one-month rental and the Dodgers needed him badly. He would already be gone along with Hicks; and Murphy would still be on the Yankees.

Find the guy who told you that rumor, and tell him for me that he is clueless.

I don't think he meant a trade this year...

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People wanted so badly to believe the good glimpses were the "real" Hicks, but by and large - it wasn't.  I think we moved on at the right time.

 

Maybe Aaron goes on to have a great career, but if I'm a betting man I prefer someone else takes that chance.

Edited by TheLeviathan
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This stuff about being a "corner OF" is way the hell overblown. If other sluggers are present, and you actually have a big-time offensive CF, one doesn't need to worry about slugging coming from the corner OF. I straight up do not understand. Rosario isn't going to be a slugging corner OF either. And neither is Kepler. All of them are likely to be solid all-around players who are above average offensively and good to excellent defensively.

 

This "corner OF type" stuff just blows my mind.

 

 

Let's think about it another way though. Teams have to get power and extra base production from somewhere, The chances of getting to from C, SS, 2B, or CF are generally limited. That's the reason historically that teams look to the corners for that kind of production. So, a team can sacrifice that type of production from one or two corners, but only if they're getting it elsewhere, right? I think you might be right when it comes to the Twins, but that's assuming your 2016 power production comes from 2B, 3B, DH, and ???. The caveat about "corner OF type" is that power production has to come from somewhere else if Mauer is manning 1B for example.

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If Hicks succeeds or is awesome:

 

1. We don't know if that would happen here

2. It doesn't matter, if Murphy is good

3. I don't get why people get all up in arms over that automatically making it bad. They key is what the Twins get, not what Hicks does now.

Exactly. I'm much more concerned with what Murphy does in Target Field than what Hicks does in Yankee Stadium.

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Personally, I like Hicks as a player and hope the best for him.  I hope he continues on because it looked like, at seasons end, he was the player we had hoped for.  I have read in other threads that we should have held on to Hicks until Buxton was ready and Hicks became the 4th outfielder.  To me, that logic doesn't make sense.  What value/return would a player have if he was the 4th OF?  I think the time was right and I think this trade will work out for both sides. 

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I fail to see how trading one player for another player is "giving up on" them......they exchanged one asset for another. Trading a player is NOT giving up on them.

 

/rant

Agree.  Trading from an area of strength to fill an area of weakness.  Sure Hicks is probably the more talented player but it's still less risky than overpaying on a longterm deal for an average C on the FA market especially w/ all the fat contracts they already have on the payroll

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I don't understand this "log jam" in the outfield, business.  Its just not the case, IMO.  The way i see it as it currently stands:  

 

Miguel Sano isn't an outfielder, and probably shouldn't be (he'll just get moved again in a year or two, why not just develop him at his permanent spot?).  I know its not terribly difficult, but he hasn't stepped foot on outfield grass in his life (warning: hyperbole), and RF in TF is one of the trickier to play with that overhang.  I've seen first hand that he has a great arm, but is it accurate from 300 ft?  A lot of questions there.

 

It doesn't sound like Buxton is going to start the year with the big club.  Of course, he may never figure out major league pitching and be a mendoza line guy with no power (which I don't think will be the case, but its a contingency).  I'd prefer not to anoint him the 15 year starter at CF quite yet, at least until he shows me something more at the MLB level. 

 

Even if Kepler were ready now, I don't see the Twins bringing him up before rosters expand, let alone before they can clear a service time hurdle.  

 

Arcia shouldn't be counted on for anything at this point, and his defense approaches Willingham status.  He can't hit breaking balls.  I doubt he'll even be with the organization in '17.

 

You're left with Rosario, who has less than 500 ABs in the majors, and Danny Santana, who is always one mistake away from mentally unraveling (it seems) into an 0-50 slump and error spree.  Those are your only competent defensive outfielders to start the season.  Thats just asking for trouble, especially in Target Field.

 

Even if they bring in a free agent to start the year in center (who will more than likely be a bargain bin, below replacement level player, if history tells us anything), they're still short on depth, in my estimation.  

 

Of course, this is all operates under the assumption that Park can hit major league pitching, which is a total unknown at this point, and probably a coin flip.  If it comes up tails, Sano is still the full time DH and we're signing another Eric Komatsu.

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This stuff about being a "corner OF" is way the hell overblown. If other sluggers are present, and you actually have a big-time offensive CF, one doesn't need to worry about slugging coming from the corner OF. I straight up do not understand. Rosario isn't going to be a slugging corner OF either. And neither is Kepler. All of them are likely to be solid all-around players who are above average offensively and good to excellent defensively.

 

This "corner OF type" stuff just blows my mind.

You're right to a degree, but what changes if Hicks is considered a corner OF is that there will be different people who are capable of playing the outfield corners competing for playing time there. On the Twins, it would be Arcia, AB Walker and probably Kepler. None of those guys are projected as center fielders, but all could man left or right (maybe not Arcia). If Hicks were moved to a corner, he would have to better than those guys and I don't think he would be.

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Greinke is a Free agent who would have been a one-month rental and the Dodgers needed him badly. He would already be gone along with Hicks; and Murphy would still be on the Yankees.

Find the guy who told you that rumor, and tell him for me that he is clueless.

Are you sure you aren't wrong in regards to the timeline?

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A couple of days later, I've settled into what I felt all along. I really think this is a good trade for both players and for both teams. We'll see how it plays out, but I get the logic, it's sound.

 

I want to see Hicks take off. If he does, I'll be happy for him.But there is some depth. They still have Rosario, Buxton, Arcia and Kepler. They could add a veteran for the short-term or encourage Danny Santana to get some time in the corner outfield spots too. 

 

They needed catching. Murphy's just 24 and could be the starter by June. I'd expect Suzuki and Murphy to split time in the first couple of months, but for Murphy to take maybe 2/3 of the starts after that.

 

We shall see.

Sounds like about what the Twins must be thinking. Trading Hicks for Murphy eases a positional logjam at both ends of the deal, and opens up career opportunities for both players.

 

I hate to see Hicks go because I like watching a guy figure things out, and it looked like he was getting there. Same thing may have been happening to Murphy in NY. Wedged between McCann and Sanchez, Murphy wasn't likely to emerge as the steady starter. 

 

Good luck to both guys. Not a steal on either side, but a good team move. 

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Hicks did have a good year. If you include AAA it was real good. He's just so streaky though and given his splits the value I see is as a good 4th outfielder. The Twins could of used that, but catcher was a huge problem. I didn't like any of the free agents, so I think they did pretty well. There's just not a lot of good or average defensive catchers who can hit at all. Murphy just has more value to the Twins than Hicks did. Walker could make an interesting 4th outfielder in the future anyways.Good analysis. Thanks.

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Let's think about it another way though. Teams have to get power and extra base production from somewhere, The chances of getting to from C, SS, 2B, or CF are generally limited. That's the reason historically that teams look to the corners for that kind of production. So, a team can sacrifice that type of production from one or two corners, but only if they're getting it elsewhere, right? I think you might be right when it comes to the Twins, but that's assuming your 2016 power production comes from 2B, 3B, DH, and ???. The caveat about "corner OF type" is that power production has to come from somewhere else if Mauer is manning 1B for example.

Yes, but as you sort of acknowledge, most teams don't have Dozier for a 2B or Buxton for a CF, both of whom have a lot of power/power potential. But more importantly no, Teams do not "have to" get power and extra base production from somewhere. Look at the Royals, to take the best example. Very low on the power. But exceptional outfield defense. During the last two years, with TWO World Series appearances, they were 16 out of 30 in power, and most of that limited power was based on a high BA, as they were 27 out of 30 in ISO.

 

All that being said, i'm fine with the trade, because we have a deep corner outfield with Rosario, Kepler, Arcia, and Walker all arrived or on the doorstep. The first provides more in defense, Arcia in power, and Kepler and Walker probably somewhere in between. They can all be potentially average or above average Corner Outfielders (although obviously Walker has the most work to do and is the least likely to make it as a starter).  Value is value, no matter what part of a player's game it comes from.

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the Twins have shown, with Hicks anyway, that service time is not the key for them. FWIW, KLAW thinks Kepler is ready now, or close enough, that bringing him up right away is not an issue (probably, maybe).

I don't see it happening without an injury.

 

Rosario is a given.

 

Arcia needs to be on the roster.

 

Buxton has both MLB and AAA time.

 

Then comes Kepler. I don't see Max jumping over the guys in front of him to open the season, though I think we could see him relatively early in the season (May) if one of the other guys is struggling.

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Hicks has all the tools necessary to be one of the league's better center fielders, boasting excellent defense and speed with a hint of power and solid plate approach. Murphy's realistic ceiling is average big-league catcher.

But when it comes to the likelihood of reaching those levels, Murphy is the far safer bet.

To be fair, this "bet" is on two different things: Hicks being notably above average for his position, and Murphy being average for his.  You could actually lose that bet on Hicks and still have him equal or exceed Murphy's contribution.

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Greinke is a Free agent who would have been a one-month rental and the Dodgers needed him badly. He would already be gone along with Hicks; and Murphy would still be on the Yankees.

Find the guy who told you that rumor, and tell him for me that he is clueless.

The poster was referring to the period around the actual Greinke trades (2011-2012).  Referring to Hicks as "the top prospect" in the deal should have been the dead giveaway, as Hicks hasn't really been considering a prospect since 2013.

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First, I agree the corner OF thing is kind of overblown. You put together the best overall roster you can. Sometimes one position is not ML average OPS wise, or better than, but you may be better than average at another spot. (Dozier, for example)

 

In regard to both sides of the Hicks yes/no debate:

 

In fairness to Hicks, he was jumped past AAA when his history suggested, like most young players, that he might be better off taking every milb step along the way. There were times when his playing time was a bit sketchy, and perhaps playing more continuous would have benefited him. He did appear to be a very different, more confident and aggressive ballplayer in 2015, at the plate and in the field. And he does still have an awful lot of talent to tap in to still.

 

In fairness to the Twins, Hicks still can't seem to hit RH pitchers very well. While appear to be that different ball player in 2015, his numbers are padded by a month hot streak. There have been incidents of seeming to lose track (or interest) of what's going on around him. He has had, more or less, 3 years to step forward and be something close to the top prospect and top 100 player he was supposed to be.

 

I wish Hicks the best. I really thought we should have kept him until mid season. But we do have a lot of talented kids here, or close. We did/do need to upgrade the catching spot. You can't really compare an OF and a C directly in relation to offensive production. But most importantly...what is really important...does Murphy help the Twins? Other than when the Yankees play the Twins, what Hicks does with them going forward is pretty irrelevant.

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