When former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Jordan Hicks officially hit the free agent market in November, it was expected that he would be among the highly-coveted relief arms this offseason. Behind top-tiered free agent reliever Josh Hader, Hicks represented the next best tier alongside prominent names such as Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson, and Aroldis Chapman. Despite being grouped together in the same tier, Hicks clearly has the advantage working on his side in the fact that he is in his prime and is considerably younger than his aforementioned counterparts.
As a result, it has been recently reported that Hicks had drawn strong interest from multiple ballclubs. These included two of the Blue Jays’ divisional rivals in the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox, as well as three other American League foes in the Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers, as indicated by Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Ari Alexander of KPRC2.
After joining the Jays at the 2023 trade deadline, Hicks put together some of his strongest stats in his career by posting an impressive 2.63 ERA, 164 ERA+ and 1.08 WHIP, along with 22 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched down the stretch. More importantly, he helped solidify the Jays’ back end of the bullpen along with Jordan Romano in leading the ballclub to their second consecutive postseason berth. With a blazing fastball that could hit 100 on the radar gun constantly to blow away hitters, it has no doubt attracted the eyes of many suitors in the process.
For the Orioles, they are actively seeking a late-inning reliever since their star closer Félix Bautista recently underwent Tommy John surgery and could be out for the entire 2024 MLB season. Hicks would provide the Orioles with long-term stability at the back end until Bautista eventually returns to action.
In the case for the Red Sox, despite having Kenley Jansen firmly entrenched as their closer last season, he was a little shaky at times. In particular, he struggled mightily this past September with a 22.50 ERA in just four appearances. In addition, his strikeout rate has decreased drastically from his career average of 35.9% down to 27.7% in 2023. With Hicks, he could provide a safety net for the Red Sox if Jansen were to falter, and if Jansen doesn’t, Hicks becomes the perfect setup man for the ballclub.
Both the Astros and Rangers aim to extend their contention window in the coming years with the winning rosters they have built. With the Astros losing Hector Neris and Ryan Stanek, and the Rangers losing Will Smith to free agency this fall, Hicks in turn becomes an ideal replacement on each of the team’s respective relief corps. In particular for the Rangers, despite winning the World Series, their bullpen actually was one of their key weaknesses in 2023 with an accumulated ERA close to 4.80 on the season. So they will need a huge improvement in 2024 to have any chance of repeating, and Hicks could be one of the solutions.
Finally, in the case for the Angels, despite closer Carlos Estévez compiling 31 total saves, he was often plagued by some control issues that led to his ERA being close to 4 and a WHIP around 1.50. That for sure isn’t a recipe for success in the long run. As a result, Hicks could provide an alternative option for the Angels at the back end of the bullpen to help bring the ballclub back into contention for the 2024 season.