aaron hill getty

Aaron Hill is back in the Diamondbacks’ starting lineup

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Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill hasn’t started a game since taking a pitch off his left hand Tuesday night. But that will change this afternoon.

According to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, Hill is back in the Arizona starting lineup for Sunday’s series finale with the Dodgers. He’s batting third, behind Martin Prado and right in front of Miguel Montero. Cody Ross, who hasn’t appeared in a game because of a calf injury, will play right field and bat seventh vs. Los Angeles starter Josh Beckett.

Hill boasts a .314/.415/.571 batting line, two home runs and six RBI in 10 games played this season.

He hit .302/.360/.522 with 26 homers and 85 RBI in 156 games played last year.

Giving Aaron Hill $35 million another misstep for Diamondbacks

Aaron Hill

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.