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Aaron Hicks named Twins’ starting center fielder

Mar 25, 2013, 10:15 AM EDT

Aaron Hicks, Joe Vavra AP

Three weeks ago when Aaron Hicks had a three-homer game against the Phillies it seemed all but certain that he’d be the Opening Day center fielder in Minnesota and now the Twins have made it official.

Hicks, who ranked among Baseball America‘s top 100 prospects this year for the fourth time, will be making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues at age 23 after the Twins traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere for young pitching help this offseason. He has very good range and an exceptional arm, and the switch-hitter batted .286 with 13 homers, 79 walks, and an .844 OPS in 129 games at Double-A last season.

By starting Hicks on Opening Day the Twins are not taking service time considerations into account in order to delay his eventual free agency, but if that was ever a part of their decision-making process with the former first-round pick it became tougher and tougher to justify a short, season-opening stint at Triple-A as he hit .350 in 18 spring training games.

  1. Detroit Michael - Mar 25, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I wonder if we make too much of the service time clock issue.
    a) There are plenty of chances for Hicks to spend 3 weeks in the minors between now and when he becomes eligible for free agency in six years. Just because he is initially called up to the majors now doesn’t guarantee that he never returns to the minors.
    b) If Hicks (or whichever prospect we’re talking about) performs so well that his employer is never tempted to option him back to the minors long enough to delay by a year when he becomes a free agent, then it means Hicks did so well that it’d be hard to second guess how the Twins developed his talent.
    c) If Hicks does well, then the team can try to negotiate for an extension which will blunt the possibility of losing Hicks when he would have first become a free agent.

    • Ben - Mar 25, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      False premise. It’s not about talent or development, it’s about saving money. The Twins don’t need more talent this year. They stink, and they’re going to stink whether Hicks is on the roster the first three weeks or not.
      The value of the Twins winning 67 games this year instead of 66 is not worth the cost later on down the road. Put slightly differently, the Twins are making the judgement that it’s worth winning 67 games this year instead of having him for a cost-controlled extra year when they might be contending.
      Unless you’re a contender and that player locks up the division for you, or you’re a fringe contender and that player puts you over the edge, it’s not worth it. You’re right that the Twins might send him down again, in which case it won’t matter. What does matter is the Twins’ decision-making process, which in this instance seems flawed.

    • dluxxx - Mar 25, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      I’m guessing you didn’t read the link, so let me paraphrase.

      Basically the Twins are giving up a full season of team control in 2019 (when they would conceivably be contending) when they could easily keep him in AAA for a month this year when everyone knows they won’t be contending. Why sacrifice that? You can get 135 or so games out of him on the major league club this year and 162 games in 2019 when he’ll be a veteran, or you can just get 162 games as a rookie and none in 2019 unless you extend him.

      Plus, the kid is 23 and never played above AA. So, yeah, that’s what Aaron is talking about.

      • Detroit Michael - Mar 26, 2013 at 8:28 AM

        Frankly, it sounds like you didn’t read my post. Points a and c in my post refute that having Hicks start 2013 in the majors leads to his being eligible for free agency a year earlier. Other things would have to happen for that to be true.

  2. pillowporkers - Mar 25, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    All the people who rationalize sending him down for three weeks are thinking too much with your baseball mind and aren’t living in reality. Fact is, we all know the Twins are going to be bad. However, the team is as of this point 0-0 and tied for the division lead. Crazier things have happened, and the Twins have managed to win the division with some pretty poor teams before. What kind of message does that send to the players on the team and fans who still have slight rays of hope in April when you don’t at least give yourself the best chance to win at the point where you are the closest you’ll be all year to the division title? Sending Hicks down now would instantly send a bad message to fans and players that they’re packing it in before the first game even starts. That’s just not realistic.

    • dluxxx - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      By your logic, the Nationals were packing it in last year when they didn’t bring up Bryce Harper to begin the season. Or that the Angel were packing it in because they didn’t bring up Mike Trout to begin the season.

      Do the Twins have a chance to make the playoffs? Sure, but just slightly more of a chance than the Houson Astros do.

      • cur68 - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:19 AM

        The Nats and Angles where already considered solid and a fan draw without Harper and Trout. All the Twins have going for them right now is Mauer and Hicks. If they want the fans to come they have to do something. That probably means giving Hicks a big league shot.

      • dluxxx - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:51 AM

        But adding Hicks to the mix makes the Twins neither solid nor a fan draw. If they’re bringing up Hicks right away to sell more tickets, or win a few more games in April then they are doing it for the wrong reasons. Three more wins or another 25K fans (probably a generous estimate) over the course of the first month of this season will be far outweighed by Hick’s value to the franchise in 2019.

        Not only will he most likely be a better player then, but his salary increase to extend him or sign him long term will far outweigh any extra value they get from him in April.

      • cur68 - Mar 25, 2013 at 4:35 PM

        I didn’t say it was a smart move. I just said this is why I think they’re doing it. I think Twins FO reasoning is something like “If he’s this season’s Mike Trout there’ll be a crap ton of fans in the stands watching him”.

        Anyhow, he’s a fantasy league steal if anyone saw this coming.

    • Ben - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      I mean, you’re not wrong. This reeks of desperation play for a team who’s still got 4,800 opening day seats available on StubHub and enormous blocks of tickets available from official outlets. But the way you stop the hemorrhaging isn’t short-term feel good decisions, it’s by making smart baseball decisions.

      • dluxxx - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        Exactly, and this isn’t a smart baseball decision. Even if they’re thinking that by that time they’ll have Buxton ready to take over if Hicks leaves, you are diminishing his value (either via trade or to your own team) by not having that extra year of team control.

    • JB (the original) - Mar 25, 2013 at 11:38 AM

      What kind of message? You mean the one they sent out when they signed Correia to a 2 year deal? or the re-habbing Pelfrey? Not having Hicks in the line-up for the first 3 weeks of a 6 month season where there will still be snow on the ground on Opening Day (where as of this morning, there are still plenty of lower infield seats available) isn’t going to do jack squat for attendance. I just got my 4th or 5th e-mail pleading ‘to please renew my season tickets by Opening Day and all will be forgiven’. They are clutching at straws and it’s making them do irrational things.

  3. pillowporkers - Mar 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    dluxx did you really just compare a 19 year old bryce harper and a 20 year old mike trout last year to a 24 year old (in april) aaron hicks? Come on, that’s not realistic. Obviously if aaron hicks was 19 and had the potential of bryce harper they wouldn’t be bringing him up right now. It’s a little different scenario.

  4. Tim OShenko - Mar 25, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    You know, given all the galactically stupid moves the Twins have made over the past few years, I’m just happy that one of those stupid moves involves having a good player on the team. To hell with the service clock, let the kid play.

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