I've noticed a lot of the talk and debate about when Aaron Hicks should debut for the Twins this year revolves around when he will be arbitration eligible. If he is on the roster Opening Day he will become arbitration eligible in 2016, however, if they Twins wait until the second half of the season to bring him up then he will be controlled by the Twins for another year under his minor league contract and will not become arbitration eligible until 2017.
Most of the advocates for keeping Hicks in AAA point to the issue regarding his arbitration eligibility and think it would be beneficial to keep him for cheap another year. When I started to think about this though, I focused on how big of a deal one year is for a baseball player in terms of production and their contract.
First I want to bring up an assumption I have made for this evaluation, regardless of when Hicks becomes arbitration eligible, the Twins will sign him long term, and the number of years in the deal won't change, meaning it will be a 6 year deal regardless if it is signed in 16' or 17'. This assumption is based on how contract negotiations are conducted and that a players agent is always looking for those long term deals when a player is eligible for a new contract.
I am not meaning to say it will no matter what be a six year deal, but that was an example and the point is that Hicks' agent will be looking for X amount of years no matter what year he becomes eligible for arbitration. I hope these two assumptions can be agreed upon by the vast majority of people as they make sense and don't seem to be far fetched, to me at least.
The reason I had to bring up the assumption regarding the number of years the contract will be worth, is that signing a big contract (as I expect it will be if Hicks performs well) is more beneficial for a club the younger a player is.
Think of this, if Hicks signs a 6 year contract at age 26, the team controls him through his prime, and then has the option to let him leave as a 32 year old, compared to if he signs the contract as a 27 year old, in which case the team will be paying him as a 32 year old on the same contract he signed as a 27 year old in his prime, and then getting to decide on his future as a 33 year old.
The basic idea for my thinking is that regardless of when Hicks is arbitration eligible, the contract he signs will be similar in years and close in salary, but with him signing a year earlier the team will effectively be paying him during his prime, and then having the option to get rid of him after his prime if they either have a replacement or his production declines.
I know at the age of 32 and 33 players don't regress so much that they are garbage. But, I would rather be paying Hicks the big bucks when he is producing (starting at age 26), and then be able to decide if he is worth keeping a year sooner (say 2021), and at a younger age, than if the Twins wait and don't call him up till the second half of the season and waiting until say 2022 when he is older to decide on a contract, and risk overpaying him the last year or two if production declines.
Because Hicks is the big news from Twins camp, this discussion seems necessary since the Twins will have to decide on it very soon.
Nick Baker is the creator of his own Minnesota Twins Blog that provides fans with daily articles and up-to-date news on the Twins that every fan should be aware of.