Aaron Hill

Giving Aaron Hill $35 million another misstep for Diamondbacks


Arizona GM Kevin Towers has mastered the art of buying high and selling low this winter.

In giving Aaron Hill a three-year, $35 million extension on Friday, Towers made another high-risk, low-upside move.  Second basemen have a history of cratering earlier than most, and Hill is going to be 32-34 during the years his extension covers.

Of course, Hill was terrific last season, one of the NL’s 10 best players. However, he has a terribly inconsistent history on offense (Hill has a career OPS of .759, yet he hasn’t actually posted an OPS in the 700s since 2007), and his glovework has gone from outstanding in his mid-20s to above average now. He’ll almost certainly be a below average defender by the time his new deal ends in 2016.

The big problem here is that Hill is going to play this year at 31. His new deal doesn’t kick in until 2014. Contracts of this type for second basemen in their 30s are practically unheard of and for good reason.

According to Baseball-reference, Hill has accrued 21.4 WAR through age 30. Here’s a list of every other second baseman since 1900 to amass between 18 and 25 WAR through age 30 and what they did from ages 32-34, the years Hill’s extension covers.

Jimmy Williams – .195/.257/.235 in 374 AB – (0.7) WAR
Del Pratt – .313/.370/.437 in 1,702 AB – 10.2 WAR
Max Bishop – .271/.433/.368 in 1,053 AB – 8.5 WAR
Red Schoendienst – .293/.345/.403 in 1,688 AB – 9.7 WAR
Bobby Avila – .247/.334/.343 in 1,351 AB – 3.0 WAR
Ron Hunt – .285/.395/.320 in 827 AB – 3.7 WAR
Davey Johnson – .325/.411/.554 in 157 AB – 1.8 WAR
Dave Cash – .227/.287/.280 in 397 AB – (0.7) WAR
Steve Sax – .237/.287/.315 in 710 AB – (0.6) WAR
Bill Doran – .272/.372/.387 in 1,151 AB – 4.9 WAR
Robby Thompson – .217/.307/.340 in 692 AB – 1.7 WAR
Delino DeShields – .221/.329/.340 in 497 AB – 0.2 WAR
Ray Durham – .289/.360/.484 in 1,466 AB – 7.1 WAR
Luis Castillo – .270/.366/.315 in 1,031 AB – 0.9 WAR
Brian Roberts – .244/.308/.340 in 459 AB – 0.1 WAR
Orlando Hudson – .246/.318/.352 in 1,155 AB – 3.1 WAR

The old-timers don’t look so bad. Pratt, who played from 1912-24, sustained no drop-off due to age, and Schoendienst, a late-bloomer as a hitter, ended up in the Hall of Fame. However, of the 11 players here to play in the last 50 years (everyone after Hunt), only Durham maintained his previous level of production at ages 32-34. Most of the rest weren’t useful at all. That’s the tendency with second basemen: once they stop being quality regulars, their lack of versatility prevents them from contributing even as part-timers.

Taken altogether, the average player here produced 3.3 WAR from ages 32-34. The Diamondbacks  are expecting much more than that from Hill after guaranteeing him $11.67 million per year. History suggests they’ll almost surely end up disappointed.

Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks agree to $35 million extension

Aaron Hill AP

Three weeks after Aaron Hill and the Diamondbacks were said to be having preliminary extension talks the two sides have agreed to a deal, with Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reporting that Hill will get $35 million for three seasons.

Hill signed a two-year, $11 million deal last offseason and would have become a free agent after this season, so it’s easy to see how much his leverage increased following a year in which the second baseman hit .302 with 26 homers, 44 doubles, and an .882 OPS in 156 games while playing his usual stellar defense.

Hill was terrible in his final season-and-a-half in Toronto, allowing Arizona to acquire him at a discount in mid-2011, but he’s been fantastic for the Diamondbacks with a .304 batting average and .881 OPS in 189 total games.

Arizona was able to keep the commitment relatively short–Hill will be 34 years old when the deal ends–and $11.667 million per season is similar to the average annual value in recent deals for fellow second basemen Brandon Phillips and Dan Uggla.

Dbacks, Aaron Hill are talking extension

Aaron Hill AP
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All Aaron Hill does is hit for the cycle and make contract extension news. At least if you search the HardballTalk archives for him anyway.   Since it’s the offseason, it’s contract extension time. From Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic:

The Diamondbacks have had preliminary discussions with second baseman Aaron Hill about a contract extension, and CEO Derrick Hall said he expects more substantial talks to begin soon.

Hill hit .302/.360/.522 with 26 home runs, 85 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 156 games last season. He signed a two-year deal last offseason, but given how players increasingly don’t wish to negotiate during the season combined with how short a window it is between the end of the season and the kickoff of the full-blown free agent derby each fall, the Dbacks would save a lot of hassle by locking him up now.

Aaron Hill makes history with his second cycle of the season

Aaron Hill AP

Here’s something you don’t see every day. Or week. Or month. Or year. Or decade. Well, you get the point.

After hitting for the cycle back on June 18, Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill did it again tonight against the Brewers in Milwaukee. That’s right, two cycles in the space of 12 days. And the Padres and Marlins are still waiting for their first one.

Incredibly, Hill is the first player to get two cycles in the same season since Babe Herman did it with the Brooklyn Robins in 1931. That’s 81 years of baseball, folks.

Hill had a ground rule double in the top of the first inning, a single in the third, a two-run homer in the fourth and a triple in the sixth to complete the feat. By the way, that double gave him 1,000 hits for his career. Now that’s a special night.

Aaron Hill hits for cycle in win over Mariners

Aaron Hill AP

Aaron Hill hit for the cycle tonight in the Diamondbacks’ 7-1 win over the Mariners.

Hill singled in the first inning, tripled in the third, doubled in the fifth and socked a solo home run in the seventh to complete the feat. He’s the second player to hit for the cycle this season, joining Mets’ outfielder Scott Hairston.

It was the fifth cycle in Diamondbacks’ history and the first since Kelly Johnson on July 23, 2010. Of course, Hill and Johnson were traded for each other last August.

On the strength of his 4-for-4 night at the plate, Hill is now hitting .284/.352/.475 with eight home runs, 28 RBI, six stolen bases and an .827 OPS through 64 games this season.