Aaron Hill Rumors


Blue Jays President Beeston On Darvish, Lee, Payroll

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston sat down with Richard Griffin of the the Toronto Star to talk about the state of the club, free agents coming north of the border, and even his own contract.  Here are some highlights..

  • Beeston was reluctant to tip his cap on whether or not the Blue Jays will make a run at Yu Darvish, but he did say that "I think those people at Rogers who never heard of him before, now know this player is in existence."  Despite that, he has yet to inform ownership that he is ready to spend extra payroll dollars.
  • Beeston said that he's happy for the ex-Jays that made it to the postseason this year with other clubs.  Ultimately, he says that there's no way of knowing if the Blue Jays would have made it to the playoffs if they still had players such as Roy Halladay, Shaun Marcum, John McDonald, and Aaron Hill in the fold. 
  • When discussing Hill, Beeston said, "I think that [General Manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] had determined that he wanted to make a move with Aaron."  Toronto shipped Hill and McDonald to the Diamondbacks for Kelly Johnson in an August trade.
  • Halladay "made it quite clear" that he was not going to re-sign with the Blue Jays after the 2010 season.
  • The Blue Jays didn't make a serious run at Cliff Lee in free agency last year and Beeston believes that doing so would have been a "waste of time".
  • Even though the senior people at Rogers aren't baseball fans, Beeston still keeps them informed of major decisions.  For example, Beeston discussed the Halladay trade with management before pulling the trigger.   Beeston says that Rogers has yet to interfere with or object to a front office decision.
  • At a fan get-together in February, Beeston said that the club could possibly spend up to $120MM on payroll.  Beeston clarified those comments and says that the $120MM figure is in reference to salaries on the 40-man roster and not including draft bonuses and international free agency. 
  • That uptick in payroll could happen this year or next year.  Beeston plans on adding a big piece at the right time for the right price.  He later added that the team first has to show that they can contend before they can land the premier free agents on the open market.
  • The Blue Jays have built up the farm system and they're reassured of their talent by the amount of inquiries they get from other teams.  The Colby Rasmus trade showed that the club could afford to trade several attractive pieces without mortgaging their future.
  • Rumors of Beeston re-upping his contract through 2015 are not true.  In fact, he says that he hasn't talked to anyone about an extension of his current deal.
  • Beeston said that he sees an opening in the AL East because of the uncertainty in Boston, aging stars in New York, and limited capital in Tampa Bay.
  • Even though attendance in down in Toronto, revenue continues to grow for the organization.  The belief is that the pace will pick up once the team is contending again.



Quick Hits: Brewers, August Winners, Free Agents

Twins minor leaguer Kyle Gibson, the No. 22 overall draft pick in 2009, will undergo Tommy John surgery, per Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com. Best wishes to Gibson on making a full recovery and perhaps debuting in the Majors late in 2012.

Here are a few other items of note on this Thursday afternoon:

  • The Brewers were interested in acquiring lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles before Baltimore dealt him to Texas, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “We had the irons in the fire,” Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin said. The Brew Crew remains without a southpaw in their bullpen.
  • The Diamondbacks were among the five winners of August's post-deadline trade period, opines Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. Arizona shored up its infield by acquiring infielders John McDonald and Aaron Hill from Toronto in exchange for Kelly Johnson. Morosi's other winners: The Rangers, Tigers, Braves and Indians.
  • Impending free agents, however established they may be, should still be scouted dilligently, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). For example, though some of us may take it for granted that Albert Pujols' fractured wrist is fully healed, scouts from interested teams will be watching all of his final at-bats for even the slightest change in his swing or approach. After all, Bowden explains, with tens, and sometimes hundreds, of millions of dollars at stake, every bit of info helps.



D’Backs Wanted Defense, Infield Depth

Talk of draft pick compensation, club options and future salaries is valid after any trade, including the one the Diamondbacks just made with the Blue Jays. But the D’Backs didn’t make this move with an eye on future seasons or drafts. 

Kelly Johnson

“This deal was really made with a focus on ‘how do we get better for the next five weeks and stay ahead of the Giants’,” GM Kevin Towers explained this evening on a conference call with reporters.

Ever since Stephen Drew’s season ended, the D’Backs have been short-handed up the middle. They wanted to rely on Willie Bloomquist less, so Towers and the Blue Jays discussed Aaron Hill, someone the D’Backs have been eyeing for a while. The second baseman isn’t having much of a season at the plate, but Towers says his power could return against National League pitching. 

“We’re hoping that a change of scenery can not only spark our club, but spark these two guys,” Towers said, referring to Hill and John McDonald

Even if Chase Field doesn’t coax extra base power out of Hill, who has a 36-homer season to his name, Towers won’t mind. The deal, which included the versatile McDonald, was about defense. Though Towers didn't express disappointment in Kelly Johnson’s defense, he did say he's looking forward to adding the pair of former Blue Jays to his infield.

Hill has two $8MM team options for 2012-13, yet they aren't a major consideration for the D'Backs at this point at this point. It was “doubtful” that Johnson (pictured) would have returned after 2012, according to Towers, so the D’Backs were willing to part with him for Hill, regardless of whether Hill returns to Arizona in 2012. 

That Hill and McDonald strike out less than Johnson (132 Ks this year) is a bonus for Towers, who has been looking to reduce Arizona’s strikeout totals since last year. Plus, they’re two “great guys” who drew personal praise from Diamondbacks people and others in baseball. 

For the two nice guys to finish first, the D’Backs will have to maintain their current one-game lead over the defending World Champion Giants. Arizona could even obtain more help this month, since Towers may not be done dealing yet. 

“We’ll keep working the phone lines until the end,” he said.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.



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.









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