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Orioles sign Aaron Hicks as Cedric Mullins roster replacement, rationale unclear

Hicks has not been any good for three years, so why the Orioles have done this is beyond me

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

3:30pm update: The Orioles officially announced the roster move. Mullins is on the 10-day injured list and Hicks is signed. The below article has been edited from its original version.

Anyone who spends a perhaps unhealthy amount of their time thinking about the Orioles has been crunching roster move possibilities ever since Cedric Mullins pulled up while running to first base yesterday with a serious-looking injury that was given a serious-sounding initial diagnosis of a groin strain after the game. All of this thinking has involved internal options to the Orioles. They’ve gone a different direction entirely.

On Tuesday afternoon, writer Robert Murray from FanSided reported that the Orioles have shown “serious interest” in free agent outfielder Aaron Hicks. In ordinary circumstances, that’s not an outlet where I’d search for rumors, but this has been repeated by a few other reporters both local and national, including The Baltimore Banner’s Andy Kostka, who added that “a deal could come together quickly” as a result of the outfield situation.

The only honest way to describe Hicks’s performance over the last three seasons is to say that he has sucked. Since the start of the 2021 season, he’s hitting a combined .209/.315/.310. The Yankees released the 33-year-old switch-hitter earlier this season with two full years of dead money left on a seven-year, $70 million contract he signed prior to the 2019 season. That’s a serious amount of suck.

Why the Orioles would want Hicks, even considering the Mullins injury, is simply beyond me. Unfortunately, this is not a rumor that can be dismissed because we don’t like it. The reality is there are multiple examples of precedent from just last season where the Orioles inexplicably signed a player who was released by another team after having played poorly for that team. The signing of Hicks seems like it will fit squarely in with those examples.

Last year, that was Brett Phillips and Jesús Aguilar. Any idiot could have looked at their recent MLB performance and concluded that they were no good and they would not be a positive addition to the Orioles hopes of going anywhere towards the playoffs. The Orioles, in contrast to their recent reputation for smart decisions signed each anyway. They stunk as predicted and were soon gone. There is no reason to believe that Hicks would end up any differently.

About all the positive that could be said for the idea of signing Hicks and playing him for however long that they can stand to have his poor hitting in the lineup is that it would not disrupt the players who have regularly been getting time at other positions. They don’t have to shift Austin Hays to center field, or start having Adam Frazier or Terrin Vavra or whoever get time in left field with Hays in center.

Me, I’d rather just see Ryan McKenna play center field than have the Orioles sign Hicks, and I don’t think McKenna is any good. If they’re taking a flier on somebody for a short duration, I’d rather that be Norfolk outfielder Daz Cameron. These are the choices that are available with both Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers currently on the Norfolk injured list.

Even this “Hicks would minimize the disruption” point only goes so far, as there’s going to be a shakeup in the batting order with Mullins, who’s led off 40 of the team’s 54 games, out of action. Somebody’s going to have to get put in that spot who hasn’t been doing it. That sure better not be Hicks.

Not currently having an idea of exactly how long Mullins will be out, it’s hard to know how long of a stopgap this Hicks thing is aiming to be. One could generate a cope response to the idea of signing Hicks that maybe he’s only set to be here for as long as it takes for Cowser to be healthy and to shake off the rust with a little rehab. The only thing standing against this belief is everything Elias has ever done with promoting prospects.

Another pleasant dream is that perhaps Mullins won’t be gone that long. I’m not getting my hopes up, but I won’t think less of you if you do.

There was already an open 40-man roster spot, so the Orioles did not need to chuck anybody from the roster in order to add Hicks. It’s full now.