Aaron Hill Rumors

NL West Notes: Crawford, Dodgers, Zobrist, D’Backs

We took a look at the Rockies earlier today. Now, let’s check in on the rest of the NL West, which could be shaping up to be a busy division at the deadline:

  • The Dodgers plan to utilize outfielder Carl Crawford off of the bench when he is activated from the DL, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. For the time being, then, the club seems to have resolved its long-running logjam. “Carl happened to be the one who got hurt,” explained manager Don Mattingly, who said that Crawford is primarily a left-fielder, but that the position was now occupied by Matt Kemp. As Shaikin notes, Crawford still has $69MM remaining on his deal, including the rest of ths season and his annual payments through 2017, and could potentially be shopped in some kind of large contract swap.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers would be interested if the Red Sox make their relievers available, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He lists Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, and Craig Breslow as players who Boston could conceivably listen on, as the first three are set to become free agents while Breslow had a $4MM club option with a $100K buyout.
  • The Giants may have interest in Rays infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist, according to a report from Chris Haft and Ryan Hood of MLB.com. The Giants have sent special assignment scout to Pat Burrell to Tropicana Field recently, and the duo adds that the Rays are believed to have scouted San Francisco’s Double-A affiliate extensively.
  • The Diamondbacks entered this season with a $110MM payroll and are believed to be targeting the same number for next season, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The problem, however, is that the current roster projects to come in around that amount due to arbitration raises and escalating salaries on current long-term deals. As such, the team figures to make trades to shed payroll in the coming weeks. Martin Prado and Aaron Hill are listed by Piecoro as candidates to be dealt.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.

Blue Jays Scouting Aaron Hill, Martin Prado

JULY 5: The Blue Jays appear to favor Prado over Hill because of the former’s positional flexibility (starts at every infield spot plus left field since 2012), tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

JULY 4: The Blue Jays are “heavily scouting” Diamondbacks infielders Aaron Hill and Martin Prado, as well as Padres third baseman Chase Headley, ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports (Twitter link).  The Jays were known to be interested in Headley, though the two Arizona infielders are new additions to Toronto’s search for help at either second or third base.

The problem with this trio of players, as Bowden observes, is that all three carry large salaries and are in the midst of disappointing seasons.  Headley is owed a little over $5MM for the remainder of the year but is a free agent this winter, whereas Hill and Prado are both under contract through 2016.

Hill is owed approximately $29.3MM over the remaining 2.5 years of his deal and is hitting just .248/.285/.368 with six homers through 337 plate appearances this year.  The last time Hill hit that poorly was during the 2010-11 seasons when he was, ironically, playing for the Jays.  After being dealt to the D’Backs in August 2011, Hill regained his stroke and posted an .860 OPS over 1030 PA in 2012-13.

Prado, meanwhile, is hitting only .268/.313/.360 with three home runs over 351 PA.  He has played mostly at his preferred third base spot this year, though he also has a lot of experience as a left fielder or second baseman.  Prado is owed around $27.3MM through the 2016 season.

Toronto is known to be looking for help at either second or third base, with the idea that Brett Lawrie (when he returns from the DL) will man the other position.  Given Lawrie’s fielding ability at third, Hill would seem like the more natural fit since Prado is much better defensively at third (career 4.4 UZR/150) than at second (-7.9 UZR/150).  It’s possible the Jays might also prefer Hill due to his familiarity with playing on the Rogers Centre turf, though that’s just my speculation.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.

Diamondbacks Notes: Goldschmidt, Hill, Prado

Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers revealed this weekend that he approached first baseman Paul Goldschmidt about the possibility of signing a long-term extension. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert has more on Goldschmidt plus notes on some players who recently signed deals of their own…

  • Though the Diamondbacks were interested in locking Goldschmidt up, they will honor his request to wait before engaging in serious contract talks. "We tried, but he was just confident in his ability at the time and said, 'You know, I'm not looking for security right now and need a little bit more time just to kind of have a better idea with another year of play who my peer group looks more like,'" Towers said. 
  • Earlier on in their history the Diamondbacks signed many players to deals that included deferred salaries. The team has now paid off most of that $250MM commitment, which has led to increased financial flexibility.
  • Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick explained that the upcoming national television deal should allow teams such as the Diamondbacks to spend more aggressively and retain their top players. "Our view with some of our key players is we can invest in multiple year deals in advance of the wave of money, where all clubs will begin to perhaps spend more on free agents or on their own players,” Kendrick said.
  • Kendrick said he’s not concerned that Martin Prado and Aaron Hill might decline over the course of their recentlycompleted contract extensions. "If these guys continue to play at the level that they have played, which we hope they will, then I think we will look at all these signings, hopefully all these signings, as good investments," Kendrick said.

Diamondbacks To Extend Aaron Hill

The Diamondbacks officially announced that they've extended second baseman Aaron Hill through 2016. The deal is valued at $35MM, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, who first reported the agreement (on Twitter). The Legacy Agency represents Hill.

Aaron Hill - Diamondbacks (PW)

The Diamondbacks initially extended Hill in 2011, signing him to a two-year, $11MM contract covering the 2012-13 seasons. That contract calls for a $5.5MM salary in 2013 and won't be affected by today's deal. The new agreement covers the 2014-16 seasons. Hill will earn $11MM in 2014, $12MM in 2015 and $12MM in 2016, according to Jack Magruder of FOXSportsArizona.com (on Twitter).

The Diamondbacks acquired Hill from Toronto late in the summer of 2011. The second baseman hit well after joining the Diamondbacks and he continued producing throughout the 2012 season. Hill hit .302/.360/.522 with 26 home runs in 668 plate appearances last year, leading all National League second basemen with 6.2 wins above replacement (per FanGraphs).

This marks the fourth extension Kevin Towers & Co. have completed in 2013. The team signed Martin Prado, another client of the Legacy Agency, to a four-year, $40MM contract. Cliff Pennington (two years, $5MM) and J.J. Putz (one year, $7MM) also obtained new deals, as MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows.

Robinson Cano still projects as the top second baseman — and likely the top position player — available in free agency next offseason. While Cano seems poised for a substantially larger deal than Hill, he does gain some leverage today. Teams no longer have Hill as a free agent alternative.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rosenthal On Lohse, Prado, Porcello, Padres

The latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports

  • Though Brewers owner Mark Attanasio recently said “there’s always a chance” that Kyle Lohse could end up in Milwaukee, Rosenthal suggests the free agent right-hander will likely sign elsewhere. The Brewers are reluctant to surrender the 17th overall selection in the upcoming draft in addition to the corresponding slot money. Lohse, the top starter remaining in free agency, has been linked to draft pick compensation since he turned down the Cardinals’ qualifying offer. 
  • Martin Prado’s bat might seem suited for second base, but Aaron Hill is already established at the position. It won’t be an issue, since the Diamondbacks want to keep both Prado and Hill, according to Rosenthal. Both players are clients of The Legacy Agency.
  • Rick Porcello could benefit from pitching in front of a better infield defense, and he remains a potential trade target given Detroit’s starting pitching depth. However, some teams are concerned about Porcello’s low strikeout rate, struggles against left-handers and $5.1MM salary. If Porcello has a big year, he could obtain a substantial raise through arbitration leading up to the 2014 season.
  • The Padres are likely to pass on Porcello for more affordable starters. Rosenthal suggests San Diego could look to trade for pitchers such as Aaron Harang and Luke Hochevar in Spring Training.

Diamondbacks Interested In Extending Hill

The Diamondbacks have had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for second baseman Aaron Hill, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. CEO Derrick Hall says GM Kevin Towers hopes to begin more substantial talks with Hill’s representatives at Legacy Sports Group.

“We’re interested in trying to come to an agreement with Aaron before the season starts,” Hall said. “We know he wants to be here and we obviously feel the same way and would like for him to be here. So Kevin and his agent will begin to speak very soon.”

Piecoro suggests the sides have yet to discuss contract length or value. Hill will earn $5.5MM in 2013 under his current contract, which was signed months after the Diamondbacks traded for him in August of 2011.

Hill posted a .302/.360/.522 batting line with 26 home runs in 668 plate appearances last year, his first full season in Arizona. Among second basemen only Robinson Cano produced more wins above replacement than Hill in 2012, according to FanGraphs' version of the metric (7.8 for Cano, 6.2 for Hill). Hill rebounded from a 2011 season that saw him post a .246/.299/.356 line in 571 plate appearances for Toronto and Arizona.

In case you missed it, the Diamondbacks recently extended closer J.J. Putz through the 2014 season.

Diamondbacks Notes: Hill, Hall, Schmidt

It was on this day 11 years ago that baseball's first November game ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Diamondbacks, as they lost the fifth game of the 2001 World Series due to closer Byung-Hyun Kim blowing a ninth-inning lead for the second straight game.  The loss to the Yankees put the D'Backs down 3-2 in the Series, but the Snakes recovered to win the last two games (with Luis Gonzalez providing some ninth-inning magic of his own in Game Seven) to capture the franchise's first World Series championship.

Here's the latest from the desert…

  • Aaron Hill would love to discuss signing a long-term extension with the D'Backs, the second baseman tells MLB.com's Steve Gilbert.  Hill has hit .304/.364/.517 in 810 PAs for Arizona since being dealt from the Blue Jays in August 2011 and signed a two-year, $11MM deal with the Snakes that runs through the end of the 2013 season.
  • D'Backs president and CEO Derrick Hall addressed a number of topics in a chat with fans on MLB.com, including how the team is looking to add to the left side of its infield and will be "managing the abundance of players we have" in the outfield.  The D'Backs have already made one major trade involving an outfielder, sending Chris Young to the A's and acquiring Cliff Pennington and Heath Bell.  Hall also discussed the team's international scouting in Japan and the possibility of third base coach Matt Williams leaving to take a managerial job.
  • The Rangers acquired catcher Konrad Schmidt on a waiver claim from the D'Backs, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest.  Schmidt, 28, appeared in four games for Arizona in 2010 and four more last season, amassing 17 total Major League plate appearances.  The catcher has a .291/.345/.434 line in 2234 career minor league PAs.

Diamondbacks Sign Aaron Hill To Two-Year Deal

TUESDAY, 6:46pm: The D'Backs announced the two-year contract today in a press release. MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets that Hill passed his physical, making the deal official.

SUNDAY, 8:30pm: The Diamondbacks may have declined Aaron Hill's option last month, but the second baseman will still be calling Chase Field his home. The two sides have agreed to terms on a new two-year contract that will pay Hill $11MM.

Hill, who will be 30 years old on Opening Day, came to the Diamondbacks along with John McDonald in an August trade that sent Kelly Johnson to the Blue Jays. He flourished in his new surroundings, hitting to the tune of a .315/.386/.492 triple slash line with a pair of round-trippers. In the field, UZR suggests that his defense has been a plus over the course of his career, with a UZR/150 of 4.2. His career 6.2% walk rate is below league average, but he also doesn't strike out very often (12.6% career).

Overall, Hill batted .246/.299/.356 in 2011 and hit just eight home runs after averaging 31 long balls from 2009-2010. He broke out with a monstrous season in 2009, hitting 36 homers and batting .286/.330/.499, but has been unable to recreate that level of success. He doesn't need to return to that form to justify the value of his new deal, but if he continues his Arizona renaissance, he'd be a massive bargain for the Snakes.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes ranked Hill 38th on his list of Top 50 Free Agents. He was one of eight MLBTR writers who correctly predicted the Diamondbacks for Hill's destination in MLBTR's Free Agent prediction contest.

Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio first tweeted that the two sides would complete a deal within the next three days, while Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweeted that an agreement had been reached and SI.com's Jon Heyman tweeted the final details. Hill is represented by the Legacy Sports Group, as MLBTR's Agency Database shows.

NL West Rumors: Lincecum, Rockies, Dodgers

The latest out of the NL West…

Tigers Notes: Ellis, Hill, Molina, Laird

The Tigers had already locked up Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta, Joaquin Benoit and Victor Martinez by November 23rd of last year. Here’s the latest on the team as they start the current offseason more quietly… 

  • The Tigers seem to believe they can find help via trades, tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.  The club has given up a lot in the past but they are willing to deal anyone but their top minor league prospects.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press that the Tigers didn’t offer contracts to Mark Ellis, Jamey Carroll or Aaron Hill, three middle infielders who recently signed two-year deals. Should the Tigers pursue free agent middle infielders such as Clint Barmes or Kelly Johnson, they’d likely be looking at a two-year commitment given the deals we’ve seen so far and the number of teams with openings at second or short.
  • The Tigers are considering Jose Molina, Matt Treanor, Ramon Castro and former Tiger Gerald Laird as possible backup catchers, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). All four backstops are free agents who could give Alex Avila an occasional breather while keeping Martinez’s knees fresh so he can contribute on offense.