It was somewhat biggish news today, at least on Jays Connected, that for a second straight day, Aaron Hill wasn’t in the starting lineup.
This is Aaron Hill, owner of a .226/.275/.312 triple slash line this year.
This is Aaron Hill, who is, according to baseball-reference.com, making $5 million this year, with team options of $8 million, $8 million and $10 million for the next three seasons.
The news was that, while the regular starters who sat in yesterday’s game – Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus – returned to the lineup, Hill was left out of it, which could either be just to give the playing-well-of-late Johnny Mac another opportunity, or more indicative of the playing time Hill will get down the stretch drive.
Whatever it was, Zaunn and Campbell decided to comment on the situation in the Jays pre-game show and the Z-Man’s general consensus was that it was (I’m paraphrasing) a poor move on the part of the Blue Jays franchise because Aaron Hill signed a long-term contract to be the everyday second baseman and the Jays owe him to honour that contract and play him throughout the duration of that term.
I’m sorry Gregg Zaunn, you might be a former journeyman big league catcher and I just a blogger who plays catcher in a local men’s league, but I call bullshit.
Do the Jays really owe Hill anything? He has, without a question, been the worst offensive contributor in the regular Jays lineup all season – even worse than castoffs like Corey Patterson – and it’s not even close.
It’s the same sort of sentiment that drove us all crazy last season with Cito Gaston at the helm, where he felt some overriding sense of responsibility to play “veterans” regularly in order to get them better contracts (with other teams) as opposed to giving the future of the team a chance to take the helm.
Certainly I understand Zaun’s sentiment, that Hill was signed to be the everyday second baseman and that’s fair. But there has to be some sort of accountability on the player’s end.
When Hill signed his long-term contract, he was coming off a year in which he OPS-ed .829 and hit 36 homeruns. While those might be lofty numbers he might not yet reach again, I don’t think anyone ever anticipated he would fall off the map this far.
While 2010 was undoubtedly a down year for him, he at least hit 26 homeruns, so there was a power element. This year has been even worse and he’s had no redeeming qualities as an offensive player.
This really hurts me to write, as honestly, I truly like Aaron Hill as a ballplayer and I’m hoping he fixes all that ails him an returns to being a productive major leaguer, but …
John MacDonald is currently a better offensive option than Aaron Hill.
Let that sink in for a while. Let that truly percolate in your brain and then come back to the question of … Do the Blue Jays owe Aaron Hill anything?
I honestly don’t buy the ‘he’s a veteran’ and therefore he should be giving a carte blanche thing… He has had five decent to excellent seasons and has been below-average to atrocious for the last two seasons. I don’t really equate that to him being able to be freely marched into the starting lineup everyday without an sort of thought of what’s best for the team.
If anything, Aaron Hill owes the Blue Jays. The team made a commitment to him and he has thus far come up far short in delivering. I don’t think it’s enough that he signed a long-term contract, so therefore he should be given the keys to the city in terms of being the starting second baseman come hell or high water.
Let’s look at it another way, say Aaron Hill was a third baseman and the franchise felt some sort of requirement to keep giving him regular playing time, due to the contract that was signed, blocking a player like Brett Lawrie. Would Zaun still be crowing about the Jays needing to honour their commitment? Is it only different because the Jays don’t have a suitable major-league-ready replacement to swoop in and take the reins at second base? (Sorry Prime Minister of Defence fans, that is not Johnny Mac).
I just don’t buy it…
Let’s get something straight, I’m not suggesting from here on in that Johnny Mac should be the starting second baseman and Aaron Hill should only play sparingly. What I’m suggesting is that it’s ludicrous to suggest that a player who has had ample opportunity in the past two seasons to live up to the expectations of his contract, but has failed, should be owed anything in terms of a free ride into the starting lineup day in and day out.
The Jays franchise owes it to their fans to put the best team on the field on a consistent basis. While that might still currently be Aaron Hill (he is obviously a better offensive player than Johnny Mac, despite what current season numbers might show), that isn’t to say that second base isn’t a huge question mark next season and the Jays should just blindly put Hill there no matter what, without exploring other options.
It’s obvious that the Jays won’t pick up Hill’s $8 million contract at the end of the year. I think Zaun’s notion that the franchise “can’t afford him to get hot” is also B.S. It’s not like Aaron Hill will go on a hot streak for the end of the year and the front office will somehow forget the better part of the last two years and award him a big contract extension. Hill could very well be the Jay’s second baseman going forward, but it most assuredly will be at a rate much lower than what he is currently being paid.
So do the Jays owe Aaron Hill anything? I honestly don’t think so. And yes, with only journeyman veterans without much in the tank long-term (John MacDonald, Mike McCoy) behind him in the depth charts, Hill should still play regularly. My only point is that the Jays “owing” him something is a B.S. concept that I hoped had left the franchise when Clarence Gaston left the building.