On January 29th, 2024, the Los Angeles Angels made a strategic move to enhance their outfield lineup by signing veteran outfielder Aaron Hicks to a one-year deal worth the league minimum of $740,000.
This addition, while considered low-cost and low-risk, has implications for the team’s outfield composition, particularly concerning outfielder Jo Adell, who lacks Minor League options and faces exposure to waivers if sent down.
With superstars Mike Trout, Taylor Ward, and Mickey Moniak already on the roster, the outfield situation becomes increasingly crowded.
The signing of Hicks raises questions about potential roster adjustments, with speculation that a trade involving one of the outfielders may be in the cards.
General Manager Perry Minasian, however, suggested that all five outfielders, including Hicks, could find a place on the Opening Day roster. Minasian emphasized the importance of Spring Training in determining playing opportunities for the outfielders.
The cost-effectiveness of adding Hicks to the team was facilitated by his ongoing payment from the Yankees due to a previous seven-year, $70 million extension signed in 2019.
Released by the Yankees in May, Hicks joined the Orioles and delivered a strong performance, batting .275/.381/.425 with seven home runs, seven doubles, and 31 RBIs in 65 games for the AL East champions.
Minasian expressed confidence in Hicks’ capabilities, highlighting his rejuvenation and ability to contribute positively to the team’s depth.
The 34-year-old Hicks, a product of Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, has a career batting line of .233/.332/.387 with 108 home runs, 120 doubles, 71 stolen bases, and 387 RBIs in 963 games with the Twins, Yankees, and Orioles. However, his challenge has been staying healthy, having played in at least 130 games only once in the last five seasons.
Known for his versatility, Hicks is a strong defender capable of playing all three outfield positions. Additionally, his batting performance demonstrates a notable advantage against left-handed pitchers, with a career .758 OPS against southpaws compared to a .702 OPS against right-handers. This trend continued in the previous season, with a .970 OPS against lefties and a .663 OPS against righties.
Minasian acknowledged the importance of Hicks’ ability to match up well against different pitchers, citing Manager Ron Washington’s potential utilization of matchups during games.
While opting for a five-man outfield may limit flexibility, the ability of players like Brandon Drury and Luis Rengifo to cover multiple infield positions offers alternatives. Despite early career inconsistencies, Adell remains in consideration, and Minasian stressed that the roster situation could evolve over the course of Spring Training.