Friday, January 18, 2013

What would an Extension for Former Blue Jay Aaron Hill Look like?

Hill also showcases brilliant defense
to go along with his offense
 that appeared again this season.
Reports surfaced recently that the Diamondbacks and second baseman Aaron Hill are discussing a contract extension. The 30 year old was acquired in August of 2011 along with SS John McDonald for fellow second baseman Kelly Johnson, and is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season.. The trade was supposed to be a fresh start for the centrepieces(Hill/Johnson), but unfortunately for us Jays fans, it didn't pan out like that. Johnson tied a Blue Jay strikeout record in 2012, and is likely only going to get a minor league deal as a free agent in the next couple of weeks, while in Arizona, Hill rediscovered himself and was worth 6.2 fWAR this past season, his highest total of his career  So, given Hill''s inconsistent past, how much will he be able to fetch from the D-Backs in a contract extension?

Recently, Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers and Brandon Phillips of the Reds, both second baseman, signed contract extensions. Kinsler was 29 when he was extended, and Phillips was 30, so they both fit quite well if you want to compare the 3. From the time they became regulars in the MLB, to when they were extended, both Kinsler and Phillips played 6 years in the majors. In those 6 seasons, Kinsler produced a fWAR of 26.7, good enough for an average of 4.0. Phillips was worth 27.9, for an average of 4.7 per season. Hill, in his career, which spans 7 seasons(Not counting his 2008 year where he was injured for the season in May), averages 2.9 fWAR per season.

From there it seems like Hill is 1-1.5 wins worse than Kinsler and Phillips career wise, but it isn't so. 2010 and 2011 were horrible years for Hill, but they had more to do with his BABIP outage, then him not producing.

In 2010, a year after taking home the AL Silver Slugger for 2nd base and signing a new extension with the Blue Jays, Hill experienced his worst season of his career. But, Hill was not to blame. Luck was. Aaron was still driving the ball(26 home runs), but his BABIP was a ridiculous .196. That's close to 100 points below Hill's career norm, which is the mean in the MLB. So, we can discount 2010 because of how much it was effected by BABIP. Finding his new WAR average with the changes listed above, it is much closer to Phillips and Kinsler, as he is worth around 3.2 fWAR. A little closer to Phillips and Kinsler, so we'll compare them now.

The following chart is Kinsler/Phillips' 6 years averages that they were starters before their respective extensions, and Hill's 6 years that don't include his injury plagued 2008, and his BABIP driven 2010.

Aaron Hill
Brandon Phillips
Ian Kinsler

From that chart, we could see that the 3 are actually very similar, although the best comparison would be with Phillips(even though he is worth more 1.5 wins per year more). So, lets look at the extension Phillips got, and then determine what Hill will likely get if the Reds and Hill do come to an agreement. 

Phillips signed last spring for $72.5MM over 6 years(AAV of $12MM), covering his age 30-36 seasons. Hill will be 32 when his possible extension will start, so I wouldn't expect anything more than a 3 year contract with a team option attached to it for his age 36 season.

1 WAR these days goes for around $5 MM per year. But, given Hill's age, his lack of durability(compared to Phillips at least), his declining defense (which was once the best in the game at his position), and his relative inconsistency, we'll set it at $3.5MM per WAR for Hill. Now, assuming he regresses at a rate of 0.5 WAR per season, he'll be worth around 12 WAR in a 3 year contract. So, that comes out to a contract in the range of 3 years at $42 million($14 MM AAV). 

If these contract talks do progress, which I'm sure they will, Hill will be in for a nice payday, but it all comes down to the amount of risk the Diamondbacks are willing to put into the contract. $42 million is a lot of money to give to a player that has had 1 good year in the last 3, especially because of his injury history, and because he's on the wrong side of 30. But, if a 3 year contract in the range of $35-45 million gets done, I think both sides would be pleased(although Hill would get more on the FA market). 

Aaron was one of my favourites to watch while he was a Blue Jays, and the di-cycle second baseman will never be forgotten in the hearts of Jays fans. Now lets see if he can agree to a nice payday that he has earned!

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  1. i think it's a mistake to assume Hill's BABIP drop was bad luck. if you look at his 2010 batted ball numbers they are way off his career norms - LD% was 10% (career is 19%), while FB% was way up 54% (career 42%). Hill was creating his own bad luck.

    in 2010, Hill, willingly or unwillingly changed his swing. whichever was the case, the experiment failed, and he needed a fresh start in Arizona to get back to what makes him a good hitter - a 20% LD rate.

    1. Well said. I am huge Hill fan, but I know that the coaches we had here were not going to be able to help him fix whatever was wrong with his swing/approach. I am happy to see him be successful in the desert and hope he continues his strong showing there.