The Yankees are among the mounting number of teams with interest in free-agent righty Jordan Hicks, per Chris Kirschner and Brendan Kuty of The Athletic. The Yanks will likely look to replenish their bullpen after trading four pitchers to the Padres in last night’s Juan Soto blockbuster. The flamethrowing Hicks is among the most sought-after relievers on the open market.
Just 27 years old, Hicks is an atypically young free agent. He’s also one of the game’s hardest throwers, with career averages of 100.8 mph, 100.2 mph and 91.6 mph on his four-seamer, sinker and splitter, respectively. That uncommon blend of age, velocity and strong recent performance appear to have positioned Hicks quite well in free agency.
Hicks split the 2023 season between the Cardinals, who drafted and developed him, and the Blue Jays, who acquired him at the trade deadline. In 65 2/3 innings, he pitched to a 3.29 ERA with a very strong 28.4% strikeout rate against an 11.2% walk rate that could stand to come down a ways but is actually lower than his career mark (12.8%). Hicks used that power sinker to pile up grounders at a robust 58.9% clip, which is roughly in line with his brilliant 60.4% career mark.
The 2023 season was one of the most successful of Hicks’ young career. He’s pitched just 243 1/3 big league innings since debuting back in 2018, thanks in large part due to injury. Hicks had Tommy John surgery in 2019, opted out of the shortened 2020 season while rehabbing from that procedure (and also due to his status as a Type 1 diabetic, making him a high-risk case during the Covid pandemic), and then battled elbow and flexor troubles in 2021-22.
Hicks has only twice topped even 40 appearances in a season — his 2018 rookie showing and this past season in 2023. Durability may not be a selling point, but his elite velocity and ground-ball rate, above-average strikeout rate and knack for inducing weak contact (career 86.7 mph average exit velocity, 31.3% hard-hit rate) all combine with his relative youth to create an air of upside. That’s perhaps reflected in the substantial number of clubs with reported interest. Hicks has been linked to the Astros, Angels, Rangers, Red Sox and Orioles this week alone. Back in October, Katie Woo of The Athletic reported that Hicks and the Cardinals nearly agreed to a three-year extension prior to his summer trade to Toronto. The Cardinals are known to be pursuing bullpen help, so logically speaking, it stands to reason that…