Murphy spent 2015 as No. 1 catcher Brian McCann’s backup and actually hit fairly well. Hicks, once considered one of the better outfield prospects (in the technical sense) in baseball, struggled terribly in the majors in 2013 and ’14, but actually hit decently this year. Well, he tore up Triple-A and was slightly below average in the majors. But this represented serious improvement.
Should the Yankees have gotten more for Murphy? The standard (and probably correct) answer is that if the Yankees could have gotten more, they would have. Of course it’s also possible that Brian Cashman overvalues Hicks. But we are talking about a speedy outfielder who was a first-round draft pick and a consensus Top 50 prospect from 2009 through ’11. Some guys develop according to your timetable, and some develop according to theirs.
Of course, some don’t develop much at all. Or enough. But with McCann signed through 2018, the possibility that Hicks will develop further — as Jeff Sullivan points out, Hicks has obviously made some real adjustments — is probably worth more to the Yankees than a backup catcher.