Jun 21, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill (2) hits a two run single against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Hill: Could Blue Jays Reunite at Deadline?

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Former Blue Jays 2B Aaron Hill has seen his name enter into trade discussions following the Arizona Diamondbacks 32-46 start to the 2014 season.  As reported by Ben Nicholson-Smith earlier in the week, the Blue Jays have begun to seek the addition of a full-time starter to their infield, which creates the possibility of a reunion with Aaron Hill.

Starting Pitching may prove to be the Blue Jays first priority at the July 31st trade deadline, but a move at 2B could have a domino effect on the Jays lineup, improving the quality of multiple positions.  Juan Francisco has experienced a dramatic drop off in his play, as opposing pitchers seem to have “figured him out” as little more than a fastball hitter.  Francisco, paired with Munenori Kawasaki and Steve Tolleson, have been unsuccessfully used in an attempt to fill the  other half of the 2B/3B duo not occupied by Brett Lawrie.

Aaron Hill would bring a long-awaited resolve to second base with the Blue Jays, improving the offensive output of the position while providing steady defence (Career .989 FLD% as 2B).  In doing so, Hill would also allow for Brett Lawrie to return to his home at 3B, creating consistency around the infield and significantly upgrading from the defence of Francisco.  In adding a starter at 2B and negating the need for “platooning”, the Blue Jays would also be given greater freedom with the fluidity of their roster, as they would likely need only to carry two players out of Francisco, Kawasaki, and Tolleson.  This roster position could be used for bullpen help throughout the later half of the season, or the addition of spot starters to give the Jays rotation an extra days rest.  It could also allow for the recalling of Anthony Gose to serve as the 4th outfielder, and Dioner Navarro‘s personal pinch-runner.

At the plate, Aaron Hill is experiencing somewhat of a “down” year, but has a history of high production that Blue Jays fans remember fondly.  Owning a career slash line of .272 / .327 / .432, Hill has improved his numbers while in Arizona to .291 / .348 / .449.  Hill is known for producing quality at-bats and offering above-average power from the 2B position.  In his standout season as a Blue Jay in 2009, Aaron Hill clubbed 36 HR and 108RBI en route to an All Star appearance.  Here is a quick look at Hill’s numbers since leaving the Blue Jays, along with John McDonald, in a trade for Kelly Johnson that I wish we had a mulligan on:

 

Year Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG
2011 ARI 33 142 23 39 12 2 2 16 .315 .386 .492
2012 ARI 156 668 93 184 44 6 26 85 .302 .360 .522
2013 ARI 87 362 45 95 21 1 11 41 .291 .356 .462
2014 ARI 73 296 24 70 16 2 6 38 .255 .294 .393
ARI (4 yrs) 349 1468 185 388 93 11 45 180 .291 .348 .478
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2014.

 

Hidden in the nostalgia of Aaron Hill are, obviously, the factors that could be argued against this move.  At 32, Hill is experiencing a relatively unproductive season, but I believe that his track record proves he is a better player than he has shown thus far in 2014.  Hill’s contract, which runs through the 2016 season, would also be a primary discussion point for Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays staff.  With salaries of $11M this season, and $12M in both 2015 and 2016, the Blue Jays must decide whether this control is valuable or detrimental to their pursuit of Hill.  With some larger salaries coming off the books in 2015, the Blue Jays can certainly afford this, but would they want to accept this price tag?  It all depends on what version of Aaron Hill the Blue Jays believe they will be getting.

The Arizona Diamondbacks appear poised to be a certified “seller” at this years deadline, and should be looking to re-stock a once elite farm system that has been depleted over the past several seasons.  The D-Backs have a strong arsenal of pitching prospects across their levels, but truly lack positional prospects that are close to impacting their MLB roster.  This could spell trouble for the Blue Jays in negotiations, given that their most valuable positional players exist in their lower levels.  Perhaps the Diamondbacks would look to someone like Anthony Gose in the deal, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.  The Blue Jays must tread very carefully, though, as they also own a farm system which, despite an upward trend this season, has been gutted in recent years.

Aaron Hill would certainly be welcomed by Blue Jays fans, as he was one of the more beloved players during his six seasons in Toronto, who drafted him in the first round (13th Overall) in 2003.  The Aaron Hill memory that will forever live in my mind came on May 27th of 2009, when Hill stole home plate against the New York Yankees.  This is a baseball move, however, and the Blue Jays will need to find a situation that is beneficial to them on the field, not just in their hearts.  If the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks are able to match up on their asking prices in a trade, which will be difficult, but achievable, I think that Aaron Hill would fit perfectly back in the blue and white.

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  • Hussein Mire

    I can’t say I have watched a bunch of DBacks games but his according to fan graphs Hill seems like a player definitely on the decline. He is chasing more, walking less, and his power is on the downside. Perhaps the glimmer of hope for Hill in the offense is his career high LD% 23.3. This may indicate Hill has been a little unlucky this year. On the defensive side of things, he is regressing there as well. While he is getting to more unlikely defensive plays, he has seen a drop off in likely plays made. That being said however, Hill would be an upgrade over the mess at 2B (Non-Lawrie) that the blue jays have had. It all comes down to A) do the Dbacks want to trade Hill and B) What is the price for him.

    • http://www.jaysjournal.com/ Keegan Matheson

      Well said, Hussein. The hint of a decline almost has me wishing Hill didn’t have the 2 remaining years on his contract after this season. I wonder how much of his down-year can be attributed to a struggling D-Backs team, and if any of that would be reversed if he was given some protection in the Jays lineup? All assumptions, of course, but fun to dream on an upgrade. Especially with Lawrie going down today, the hole at 2B is getting bigger!

      • Hussein Mire

        It’s funny that you state Hill has two more remaining years in because it would take another two seasons and a third (June 10th “ish” of 2017) before a legit prospect would (Dawel Lugo) would be ready if everything goes according to plan. A year longer if it has to be Franklin Barreto. Right now Ryan Schimpf would be my temporary replacement for Brett Lawrie, because Goins and Kawasaki are basically the same players. Jonathan Diaz bat went missing so…

        • http://www.jaysjournal.com/ Keegan Matheson

          I certainly have my eyes on Barreto, who is on FIRE early this season. If we could add a player (Hill or otherwise) to bridge the gap, I’d be a happy man. “Bridge the gap” takes a huge amount of assumption, however. We’re miles ahead of ourselves betting on Lugo or Barreto to develop into a big league starter, but between the two, it’s not crazy to believe that one of the two will push for a spot in 3 (maybe 4) seasons. I miss the days of having a positional prospect to be excited for!

  • RyanMueller

    I like the idea of bringing Hill back. I was always a fan. I think the swinging for the fences attitude that dominated the team during his time as a Jay. Hill being set to make $11 million next season isn’t too bad of a hit considering the difference he will make both with his glove and bat….even if he is showing some decline.