Aaron Hill Rumors

AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Darvish

The Blue Jays completed a trade with the Diamondbacks today, sending Aaron Hill and John McDonald to Arizona for Kelly Johnson. Here's the latest news from the AL East, starting with a note on today's trade…

  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that Hill and McDonald cleared waivers earlier in the month (Twitter link). The deal started when Arizona GM Kevin Towers called about McDonald.
  • Anthopoulos says he acquired Johnson from the D'Backs to get an up-close look at him before deciding how aggressively to pursue him this offseason when he hits free agency, according to Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi.
  • Alex Speier of WEEI.com takes us inside Boston's front office in a must-read look at how the Red Sox approached the signing deadline. “Between 11:50 and 12 it was straight chaos,” one person told Speier. “Five people were on the phone at the same time with five different agents negotiating five different deals.”
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post explains that MLB teams, even rich ones like the Yankees, have to develop their own starting pitching, since the few elite starters who do reach free agency are prohibitively expensive.
  • The Yankees have scouted Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish heavily, according to Sherman. Darvish, 25, "is coming" to the Major Leagues this offseason, according to one of Sherman's sources.

Diamondbacks Acquire Hill, McDonald For Johnson

The Diamondbacks acquired second baseman Aaron Hill and shortstop John McDonald from the Blue Jays for Kelly Johnson, tweets John Gambadoro Sports 620 KTAR.  Both teams confirmed the trade in a press release.

Johnson, a favorite of Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, has slumped to .209/.287/.412 in 481 plate appearances this year.  He has $1.16MM remaining on his contract and projects as a high Type B in the National League.  He's probably still at least a B in the AL, which has to be Toronto's motivation in acquiring the impending free agent.

Hill, 29, has been worse than Johnson at .225/.270/.313 in 429 plate appearances.  His $8MM club option is expected to be declined after the season, at which point he'd be a Type B free agent.  I'm not sure what Anthopoulos gets out of the swap.  Maybe he thinks Johnson will be a Type A and will decline arbitration, or maybe he's just more inclined to offer arbitration to Johnson than Hill.  Or, maybe he hopes to extend Johnson cheaply.  Hill has about $990K remaining on his contract.  McDonald, a defensive whiz, has about $300K remaining, so the money is pretty close.

From Arizona's point of view, McDonald can pitch in at shortstop with Willie Bloomquist, since Stephen Drew is out for the season.  As for liking Hill over Johnson, perhaps GM Kevin Towers feels a change of scenery will help, or he prefers Hill's defense.

The Diamondbacks and Blue Jays last matched up on a trade three years ago, when the Toronto acquired David Eckstein for Chad Beck.


Quick Hits: Marquis, Aaron Hill, Ellis, Matsui

Dan Uggla's incredible 33-game hitting streak came to an end today. The Braves' slugger batted an insane .377/.438/.762 over that stretch with 15 homers, good for an even 1.200 OPS. Remarkably though, he still falls 23 games short of Joe DiMaggio's immortal record. Here are your Sunday links:

  • After fracturing a fibula today, new Diamondbacks acquisition Jason Marquis will miss four to six weeks.  SI's Jon Heyman tweets that it sounds like the team's inclination is to replace Marquis internally.  The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro doesn't think the team will go with top draft pick Trevor Bauer for the rotation spot, but notes that it's not crazy to suggest it.  The 20-year-old Bauer tossed five scoreless innings today in his Double-A debut.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm, "We’re always open minded for Aaron [Hill] still being a long-term part of this team."  Anthopoulos notes that Hill has flashed his talent at times this year.  It's tough to picture the Jays picking up Hill's $8MM club option, but maybe they can work something out.
  • Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post tweets that he would be surprised if the Rockies don't re-sign second baseman Mark Ellis.  The 34-year-old had a .267/.304/.382 line in 139 plate appearances heading into tonight's action.
  • If Bob Melvin is managing the Athletics again in 2012, he wants them to bring Hideki Matsui back, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Matsui had just a .617 OPS in the season's first half, but has risen from the ashes to post a .410/.470/.630 slash line in 26 games since the All-Star Break.
  • Similarly, the Cubs and Carlos Pena both seem to be open to working out a new deal, writes Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com.  On a related note, ESPN's Buster Olney hears that "in some important corners of the Cubs' front office, there is concern about investing huge money in one player this winter."  In other words, the Cubs' brass might be wary of signing Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder to play first base.
  • Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wonders if the Pirates can follow the path to prominence that their division rivals, the Brewers, followed to escape a similar tradition of losing.
  • Olney tweets that in three days, Drew Pomeranz can officially become the player to be named later from last month's Ubaldo Jimenez trade with the Indians. Pomeranz is expected to report to the Rockies' Double-A affiliate in Tulsa.

Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.



Poll: Will Blue Jays Trade Aaron Hill?

Yesterday, the Blue Jays declined to exercise their options for Aaron Hill's 2012-2014 seasons.  While they will still be able to pick up the 29-year-old's options for '12 and '13, the decision could reflect the club's uncertainty regarding Hill's long-term future in Toronto.  After churning out a .286/.330/.499 slash line with 36 homers in 2009, Hill saw his OPS drop more than 150 points and his HR total dip to 26 in 2010.

Even if the Blue Jays aren't high on Hill at the moment, one has to think that the second baseman could attract plenty of interest if he shows flashes of his old form in 2011.  After this season, Hill can be retained for $8MM in 2012 or, for $16MM, kept through 2013.  While that's not exactly chump change, it's not an exorbitant price to pay if Hill can bring a 5.4 WAR to the table like he did in '09.

Do you envision GM Alex Anthopoulos flipping Hill to another club before this season is through?



Blue Jays Decline Aaron Hill’s Options

The Blue Jays have declined to exercise their options for Aaron Hill's 2012-14 seasons, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links). However, they will be able to exercise options for 2012 or 2012-13 after the '11 season and GM Alex Anthopoulos says he still considers the second baseman a core player.

After the coming season the Blue Jays can either exercise a 2012 option for $8MM, the 2012-13 options for $16MM total or decline the options and allow Hill to hit free agency next fall. The team can no longer exercise the 2014 option, which would have been worth $10MM.

Hill, who turned 29 last week, finished the 2010 season with 26 homers and a .205/.271/.394 batting line. His extremely low batting average is at least partially attributable to the fact that no qualified hitter in baseball had a lower batting average on balls in play last year.


Blue Jays Have Not Approached Hill About Options

Aaron Hill told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star that the Blue Jays have not approached him about the options they have for his 2012-14 seasons (Twitter link). The Blue Jays can exercise all three options before the season for $26MM total, exercise the 2012-13 options after the season for $16MM total or decline the options and allow Hill to hit free agency next fall.

As Griffin points out, it does not appear that the Blue Jays will exercise the three options before the season, which means Hill will either become a free agent after the season or see the Blue Jays exercise his 2012-13 options for $16MM total.

No qualified hitter in baseball had a lower batting average on balls in play than Hill last year, an indication that the second baseman was unlucky. Hill, who turned 29 last week, finished the 2010 season with 26 homers and an unusual .205/.271/.394 batting line.


Anthopoulos Talks Hill, Encarnacion, Wells, Arencibia

Alex Anthopoulos says he has has 'tinkered' and 'talked' about acquiring a third baseman and won't rule out potential acquisitions. But the Blue Jays GM remains confident in Jose Bautista's ability to play the position all season long. The defending AL home run champ played 48 games at third last year and spent 225 games at the hot corner for the Pirates from 2007-08, so the Blue Jays say they're set at third.

Last year's third baseman, Edwin Encarnacion, will combine with Adam Lind to play first base and DH. The Blue Jays are hopeful that Lind can handle first defensively and they're optimistic about Encarnacion's power potential. Anthopoulos says he thinks Encarnacion has "one more gear in there" and while he hesitated before comparing him to Bautista, the GM says he can see Encarnacion hitting 30 homers or more in 2011.

The Blue Jays are also looking for a bounceback season from Aaron Hill, and they have a decision to make before the season starts. The team can either exercise Hill's 2012-14 options before the coming season begins or they can wait until the offseason, at which point they'll be able to exercise his 2012-13 options or just his 2012 option. Anthopoulos declined to elaborate on the team's plan, but did emphasize that the sides aren't bound to Hill's current deal.

“There’s a lot of flexibility,” Anthopoulos told a crowd of about 500 Blue Jays fans at last night's State of the Franchise event. “We’re not tied into anything. There’s nothing that prevents us from sitting down with Aaron and his agent and saying we want to do a five-year deal, four-year deal, six-year deal.”

Anthopoulos also discussed one multiyear deal that has become the responsibility of another organization. He declined to confirm reports that the Blue Jays are sending $5MM to the Angels as part of the Vernon Wells trade. 

"The deal that was announced [Wells straight up for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera] was the deal that was agreed to," he said.

The Blue Jays have money to spend now that they've unloaded most or all of Wells' deal and they remain open to making acquisitions. Anthopoulos, a Montreal native and former Expos employee, says he can relate to fans who want a bona fide slugger like Vladimir Guerrero.

"I understand," Anthopoulos said. "He was one of my favorite players growing up and he's someone that I admire." 

However, Anthopoulos exaplined that he doesn't want to acquire players who get playing time in place of developing players. For example, the Blue Jays intend to provide their top catching prospect with the chance to show major league pitchers why he won the Pacific Coast League MVP last year.

“We really don’t want to get in the way of J.P. Arencibia because we do believe that he’s an important component of this team” Anthopoulos said. “He has nothing more to prove down [in the minors]. He needs to get an opportunity to play up here and we might have to let him live through some struggles early on.”

If the Blue Jays don't spend on free agents or through trades, they say they'll have more to spend on player development, the amateur draft and international free agency. Amateur spending will not end the Blue Jays' 17-year playoff drought immediately, but it's promising news for fans of a team that has seven of the first 78 selections in the upcoming June draft.


Blue Jays Notes: Overbay, Encarnacion, Bautista

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos met with reporters for an extended media session today, speaking about a wide range of topics. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian brings us the highlights…

  • Anthopoulos acknowledged Lyle Overbay's strong finish to the season, but the team's approach for first base is unchanged. They will explore trades and the free agent market with no guarantee that Overbay will return. 
  • Aaron Hill offered to change positions (third base) if it will help the team. The Jays have until Opening Day of next season to make a decision on the 2012 ($8MM), 2013 ($8MM), and 2014 ($10MM) options in Hill's contract. If they wait until after next season, the 2014 option is voided.
  • There is a chance that Edwin Encarnacion will be non-tendered given the raise he's likely to receive through arbitration. Encarnacion earned $4.75MM in 2010 and will be arb eligible for the final time before free agency.
  • The Jays are prepared to go to arbitration with 54 HR man Jose Bautista. He earned $2.4MM this year and his salary is likely to jump into the $7-9MM range after his monster season. Bastian doesn't think the two sides will work out a long-term deal this winter.
  • Fred Lewis was unhappy when his playing time diminished late in the season. If he's not in the team's plans as a bench player next year, a non-tender could be in order.
  • Even with Kevin Gregg, Scott Downs, and Jason Frasor all eligible to become free agents in a few weeks, Anthopoulos doesn't consider having veterans in the bullpen a top priority.
  • He'd like to add more balance to a lineup that relied primarily on the long ball this season. The Jays led MLB by a large margin with 257 homers, but they finished just ninth with 755 runs scored because of a pedestrian .312 OBP.
  • The possibility of keeping catcher John Buck will be explored, but Anthopoulos said he's earned a long-term deal and a starting job, something that might not work with top prospect J.P. Arencibia having nothing left to prove in the minors.
  • The Blue Jays are not operating with a specific payroll; the GM has the ability to adjust the finances as he sees fit. That gives them more flexibility when looking at free agent and trade scenarios.
  • There are no more front office hirings in the immediate future, but one thing they're considering is someone with more of a computer and statistical analysis background. 
  • Shi Davidi of The Canadian Press adds that Anthopoulos acknowledged the inherent riskiness of trades, but he still considers it the best way to improve the team and is willing to deal prospects for established big leaguers (Twitter links). 

Odds & Ends: Webb, Pirates, Ozzie, Pena, Mets, Lopez

Some links to check out after the Rangers clinched their first AL West title since 1999…


Odds & Ends: Hill, Sampson, Butler, Lewis

On this day in 1977, Sadaharu Oh hit his 756th career home run, passing Hank Aaron for the (known) all-time professional record.  It's just the 'known' record since we don't know for sure how many homers Josh Gibson hit in the Negro Leagues.  Oh finished his Japanese career with a whopping 868 long balls. 

Some news items…

  • Andrew Stoeten of the Drunk Jays Fans blog and The Toronto Sun's Bob Elliott both recently outlined the Blue Jays' upcoming decision about Aaron Hill's 2012-14 club option years.  If the Jays decline to exercise all three options at once by next Opening Day, Hill can no longer be retained by the team on his $10MM club option for 2014.  It's very likely that Toronto will pass on the three-years-at-once option and then look at Hill's $8MM options for 2012 and 2013 after next season.  In short, Hill's lackluster play this year has cost him $10MM thus far.
  • Chris Sampson has accepted his minor league assignment from the Astros and will report to Triple-A Round Rock, tweets Alyson Footer of MLB.com.  Sampson could've opted for free agency, but will instead finish the season in Houston's system and pursue free agency in the offseason.
  • If Eric Hosmer continues to develop, ESPN.com's Jason A. Churchill suggests that Kansas City might trade Billy Butler to avoid paying him a significant contract.  Butler is a first-time arbitration candidate this offseason and could make 10 times his current $470K salary in 2011.
  • Cleveland manager Manny Acta says that Jensen Lewis' future with the Tribe may depend on how he looks in relief outings this September, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Lewis will reach arbitration for the first time this winter and is out of options, so he's a possible non-tender candidate.
  • In a reader chat, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News gave his opinion on such Rangers hot stove topics as Cliff Lee's future with the club and whom the Rangers might target in free agency this winter.
  • Brandon Boggs has cleared waivers and been assigned to Texas' Triple-A affiliate, reports MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez.  Boggs was designated for assignment on Tuesday.
  • Eric Chavez "is not ready to announce [his] retirement," tweets MLB.com's Jane Lee, but would consider a post-playing career of coaching or broadcasting (also from Twitter).
  • Blogger El Lefty Malo looks at how the Giants have gotten better at acquiring "band-aid" veterans.
  • Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall tells FOXSportsArizona.com's Jack Magruder that money will not be a factor in hiring the team's new general manager, but admits "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an issue."
  • Alex Rodriguez's recent split with agent Scott Boras may have been influenced by advisers from the entertainment business and Rodriguez's "infatuation with Hollywood stardom," reports ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews.  Somewhere, Ari Gold is yelling at Lloyd to place a call on his behalf…