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.
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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:
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.