Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Uncertain Road Ahead for Aaron Hill

By
It's been a rough go for Aaron Hill these past few years as he's taken his bumps and bruises both literally and figuratively with the Toronto Blue Jays.

A concussion in 2008 sidelined Hill indefinitely and his immediate future with the club was put in question. He returned in 2009 and had an unprecedented season; arguably one of the best offensive campaigns by a Blue Jays second baseman.

Last season is where it all seemingly came apart; despite a 26 home run season, nothing seemed to click for Hill at the plate. A batting average just above the Mendoza Line was a cause for concern for most of the 2010 campaign.

Granted, every baseball player's career has its highs and lows, but it feels like it's been more lows than highs these past few seasons with Aaron Hill. Unfortunately, Hill's timing to have an off-year couldn't be worse.

Over the comings days and months the Blue Jays have a very important decision to make about Aaron Hill; do they exercise his club options, or do they let him walk a free agent after 2012?

The clock is ticking as the team has until April 1st to exercise all three club options for 2012/2013/2014 or they can pass and only activate the options for 2012/2013 or just pick up the 2012 option.

One person who has always had a very strong opinion on Aaron Hill has been Peter DeMarco. I'm sure you've seem him commenting around the blogosphere, and considering the thoroughness of his comments, I figured it was only a matter of time before he started his own blog "Some Thoughts On Baseball".

After Hill's breakout 2009 season, some may have scoffed at Peter's suggestion back then to trade him, but now it's looking more and more like it was the right decision to sell high on Hill.

I asked Peter what he thought the Blue Jays should do with Aaron Hill. He begins with Richard Griffin's explanation of Aaron Hill's contract specifics:
“Hill is entering the final season of a four-year guaranteed deal that he signed just prior to ‘08. The unique nature of the contract — signed before it was really necessary in terms of service years — lies in the imaginative option packages that were built in by then-assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos. The three option years for 2012-14 are for $8 million in each of the first two years and $10 million for the final year. 

Basically, the Jays by April 1 must pick up the three option years. If they choose not to, it’s not over. They will have another chance to pick up two years, 2012-13, at $16 million. That decision must be made within five days of the end of the ‘11 World Series or else Hill enters the free-agent pool with next year’s class. All the advantages are now siding with the Jays.”
Peter: Just to clarify, my opinion regarding trading Hill after the 2009 season had more to do with the value of Aaron Hill and the state of the Jays at that point in time.

I felt that the Blue Jays should at the very least explore what they could get in return for Aaron Hill because his value was most likely at an all time high, as he had a very team friendly contract, he was coming off an incredible season and he was in the “prime years” of his career.

Additionally the Blue Jays had just traded Roy Halladay and I figured it would most likely be a few years before the team would be a serious competitor for a division title, so why not try to acquire more young talent to build a core around?

Here is a reference to one of my Aaron Hill debates after the 2009 season.

Now that Hill is coming off a very poor season and his contract no longer looks so friendly, my opinion of what to do with Hill has dramatically changed. I don’t believe you could get equal value in return in a trade of Hill and therefore the team is better off keeping him and hoping for the best.

I also don’t believe that the Blue Jays should pick up his three year contract option as there is just too much risk associated with Hill at this point to guarantee another three contract years, especially one of them at $10 million. Some of this risk includes:
  • Health – Hill missed 24 games last season due to hamstring and hand injuries and some think he may have even been playing injured for most of the year. He has also missed almost all of this spring due to a quad injury.
  • Last Season – Aaron Hill is coming of a season in which he posted a .271 OBP, OPS of .665 and offensive WAR of 0.4, for all intents and purposes he wasn’t much better than replacement level second base talent.
  • As much as Hill’s BABIP of .196 in 2010 suggested he was one of the all-time unluckiest players in baseball, his approach at the plate had also changed as his line drive % dropped from a career 21% to 13% in 2010. He also started hitting fly balls at an increased rate leading some to suggest he’s trying to hit home runs.
I actually expect (possibly hope) Aaron Hill to rebound in 2011 and put up decent numbers somewhere in between his 2009 and 2010 seasons, say an .320 OBP/.450 SLG/.770 OPS.

Therefore if this happens, he stays somewhat healthy and his defence doesn’t fall off the map, I would recommend picking up his $16 million 2 year option. However, I say this under the assumption that Hill would play 2B over those two additional seasons, if he moves to 3B, I like him a lot less.

Ian: I'm with Peter on this one, there's almost no chance the Blue Jays pick up all three of Aaron Hill's club options. With so many talented young players in the farm system, it just doesn't make sense to hang onto Hill at the apex of his contract at $10 million dollars a season.

Whether the Blue Jays pick up the two year option hinges on what kind of a year Aaron Hill has in 2011. If he can just focus on making contact rather than hitting home runs, maybe his batting average can return to somewhere around his career average of .270.

If Adeiny Hechavarria were ready for the big leagues at the end of the season, the Blue Jays could explore bringing him in right away, but I don't think things have advanced to that point quite yet. Hech likely needs another season or two of seasoning in the minor leagues.

That only buys Aaron Hill a few more years in a Blue Jays uniform at best. The road ahead is very unsure for Aaron Hill, and we don't know where it will end ... but I highly doubt it will end up with the Toronto Blue Jays past 2012. 

Thanks to Peter for his contributions, be sure to check out his blog
Some Thoughts On Baseball.

2 comments:

  1. Are triple slash lines normally OBP/SLG/OPS? I always thought they were AVG/OPS/SLG.

    I had to read the expected line for Hill several times before I figured it out. I thought you had him pegged for a Pujols-like season and I was about to eat my hat!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Whoops! I think Peter was going for OBS/SLG/OPS. Not unreasonable expectations for Hill though, but if that was an AVG/SLG/OPS line he's basically doomed to fall short of .320, probably more like a .275 AVG.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...