With the 2016 Trade Deadline a matter of weeks away, trade speculations and rumors have begun to take off. Many fans have heard and read the myriad of Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun speculations, but there are a number of other players on the roster that may hold value worth dealing at July’s end. Among of those players is 34 year-old infielder Aaron Hill, one of the many new faces to the Brewers franchise this season. Since the beginning of May, Hill has quietly been one of the more productive bats in the order. Even though he doesn’t carry the major name like Lucroy and Braun have, he still could have some interesting value to any team looking to buy a right-handed stick at the deadline.
|Career (12 yrs.)||1465||5945||.268||.324||.746||.325||158||708||672||74||7.0||13.7||29.8||.288||21.3|
Production: After being acquired in the Jean Segura trade before the season started, Aaron Hill has been a pleasant surprise for the Crew. On top of his full-time transition to third base, he has done an adequate job in the field (albeit slightly below average UZRs of -0.8 at 2B and -0.3 at 3B on the season). Offensively, Hill has seemingly gotten himself out of a multi-year slump with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 and 2015. While his numbers aren’t exceedingly impressive, they seem to indicate a positive change in his production relative to his career. Like we have seen in numerous players this season, Hill’s walk-rate has also increased to an above-average mark at 11% compared to his career 7% walk-rate. This may be due to a number of factors, like age and organizational philosophy. Nonetheless, Hill has started to revert back to his old all-star self in the passed couple months – owning a .309/.411/.893 line with 6 HR, 15 RBI, and 23 runs scored in 43 games (164 PA). Of course we cannot expect this continued production – as we see in his .236/.344/.671 line in the last 17 games – but it is apparent that he can provide some intriguing value at second and prove to be a useful depth option at third. If we were to compare this offensive season to one of his past ones, it would mostly resemble his 2007 production when he slugged 17 home runs and drove in 87 runs while hitting .291/.333/.792 in 160 games (107 wRC+) despite it being highly unlikely he will hit or score that many runs this season.
Would it be Wise?: Out of any trade-able asset the Brewers have this season, Hill has the most expendability. After convincing the Diamondbacks to take on $6.5 million of his $12 million salary for this season, it shouldn’t be difficult to pitch the rest of the contract to the bidder even if the Crew decided to pitch-in a couple million to net a higher return. Also, as Derek Harvey discussed in his article, Hill’s versatility will most definitely brand him as an interesting piece to acquire for any buyer looking for depth in the infield. As a replacement, the most obvious decision would be to move INF Jonathan Villar to third base and call-up top prospect Orlando Arcia to man shortstop, as he has proven himself so far in Triple-A Colorado Springs. However, there are a myriad of other options for the Brewers at third – including the resurgent Hernan Perez, the youngster Yadiel Rivera, journeyman Jake Elmore, or Garin Cecchini – who has enjoyed a very impressive season in Triple-A (.292/.353/.758 line with 3 HR, 23 RBI, and a 106 wRC+).
3B/2B Trade Candidates: 3B Evan Longoria (TB), 2B Brandon Phillips (CIN, 2 yrs.), 3B Danny Valencia (OAK 1+1 yrs.), INF Jed Lowrie (OAK 2 yrs.), 3B Trevor Plouffe (MIN), 2B Gordon Beckham (ATL), UTIL Adam Rosales (SD), 3B Yunel Escobar (LAA, 1+1 yrs.)
The biggest barrier to trade Aaron Hill comes in how the market itself will unfold. As you can tell, both third base and second base are filled with solid options – barring each team’s strategy at the deadline. The biggest candidates among the bunch have a much better track record in recent years or profile at the position much better than Hill. It is apparent that the Athletics are willing to listen to deals regarding 3B Danny Valencia – a former journeyman who has found a serious power streak in the past two years who gets on-base at an impressive clip (.353 OBP in 154 games). They also have versatile infielder Jed Lowrie, who typically plays up the middle but can play 3B may also be available despite being under control thru 2017. Brandon Phillips and Trevor Plouffe may also be available, but there hasn’t been much buzz around them – quite possibly due to their struggles with the bat this season. However, Phillips has regained some value with his .289/.326/.671 line in his last 95 plate appearances.
The biggest variable in Hill’s value comes in the teams that are currently in the gray area between contending and selling. The most notable names – the Los Angeles Angels’ 3B/SS Yunel Escobar and the Tampa Bay Rays’ 3B Evan Longoria – could completely drop Hill’s value on the market due to the lessening of interested parties. While they both have higher salaries than Hill (Escobar has a $6.5 million dollar contract w/a club option, Longoria with $12.1 million), they both have stronger offensive numbers along with a specific strength not attributed to Hill. Escobar has been known to be a solid defender, but has struggled since moving to third base almost exclusively last season along with a poor defensive showing at shortstop the year prior. If Longoria were to be shopped, he would be the unanimous top candidate at the hot corner on account of his veteran leadership and all-star production (.278/.333/.885 line with 18 HR, 40 R, and 43 RBI for a 136 wRC+). However, if Rays fans are of any indication, the organization may be torn between retaining him as their 30 year-old poster child and dealing him to save money and acquire prospects.
Trade Partners Right Now: Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, New York Mets, San Fransisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays
Looking back to any relative comparisons to a potential deal, one could look between the trade of Aramis Ramirez (for Pittsburgh’s #30 prospect RHP Yhonathan Berrios in MLB.com’s list) and the trade of 3B Juan Uribe and INF Kelly Johnson to the Mets for a #20 prospect (RHP Rob Whalen) and a back-end potential starter in RHP John Gant. While Hill is only one player, he could still net a prospect around that 18-30 mark depending on the strength of the buyer’s farm system and his production until the point of the trade.
With Hill’s value leaning more towards a depth piece or temporary fix to a lineup, most any buyers could be interested at varying degrees. However, the Royals, Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays and Giants currently may have a need for third base or second base depth. The most glaring need out of any team is the Mets, as they had gotten word that franchise favorite David Wright could be out an extended period (if not the entire season) with a herniated disc in his neck. Right now, they have INF Wilmer Flores filling-in, but have since inquired about 3B Danny Valencia of the Athletics. Hill could be a cheaper option for the Mets in terms of prospects, as Valencia has both a cheap current contract ($3.15 million this season) plus a final year of arbitration tied to him. One early offensive target to think about may be David Thompson, a power-hitting 3B with fringy defense at the hot corner – indicating a possible shift to 1B.
With 3B Mike Moustakas out for the rest of the year and 2B Omar Infante being released, the Royals may be inclined to shop for an infielder. They currently have 3B/1B Cheslor Cuthbert and 2B Whit Merrifield manning third and second, but may want another disciplined bat to compliment the rest of the offense. The Crew could attempt to pursue lefties Garrett Davila or Eric Skoglund to be the return piece. Both players project to have a chance to be back-end starters, but Davila – age 19 – has a higher potential despite being more of a project. Expected to make the majors in 2019, he has relatively uncommon polish and control of his fastball. However, he has yet to pitch int he majors, as he was sent to bulk up last season. Skoglund, a 6’7″ monster, has drawn physical comparisons to Chris Sale but works more with his control and movement over velocity (only sits 88-92 mph). He is expected to hit the majors at some point in 2017.
The Giants recently lost 3B Matt Duffy to a left achilles strain, so they may also look to a temporary fill-in over Conor Gillaspie. The Yankees may be interested in Hill with 3B Chase Headley’s offensive woes, and the Blue Jays may also look for offensive depth at second base to pair alongside Devon Travis. However, it’s unclear what the Yankees plan to do at the deadline and the Jays may be content with their options at second.