Aaron Hill has been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with John Mcdonald (*tear*, more on him later) for KELLY MOTHERFUCKING JOHNSON. ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?! I cannot begin to express how awesome this is.
I've seriously been pining for Kelly Johnson to be the Jays second baseman ever since about halfway through last season, when Aaron Hill decided that he would begin sucking, immediately after the career year with 36 HR's (and a ridiculously never repeatable 15% HR on flyball rate). Hill so far this season has been worth a rather uninspiring -0.5WAR on the fangraphs scale, and -0.2WAR on the baseball-reference scale. For the second time in 3 years, Hill has (to this point) put up a -UZR, which is a fancy way of saying that his defense has cost the team runs (total zone has him at about 2 runs above replacement. Total Zone and UZR are the defensive metrics that make fWAR and rWAR different). Hill's line drive rate (LD%) has actually risen back up to close to where it was in his breakout '09 season, though his IFFB% (popups) is higher than it was last year. As result, his historically low babip of .196 last season has risen back up to .242, which, with the line drive percentage being back up, is probably a touch unlucky, but can't be all that far from expected.
Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that Aaron Hill is the least exciting, least impressive, least valuable, and most frustrating player that I have ever seen. Not helping was the amount of faith I had in him to recover from the turd he laid last year, which only caused me to spew more and more vitriol every single time I saw him ruin a fucking rally, popup with a runner on 2nd and 1 out, strike out with the bases loaded, or even just get slotted in to the batting order incorrectly, causing him to take AB's away from guys like Brett Lawrie, JP Arencibia, or Travis Snider (thanks Cito).
In Johnson, we're getting a guy who's having a pretty rotten year, and may very well just be Aaron Hill 2.0, but that's fine since he's different from Aaron Hill 1.0 and I'm not sick and tired of him shaking his head while looking sad, walking back to the bench after a popout. Johnson's power has remained pretty consistent, despite his batting average and OBP dropping by about 75 points compared to last season (where he had a .339 babip), and 40-50 points from his career numbers. He hits for plenty of power for a second baseman (.202 ISO this year, .212 last, .182 career), and, as with most power hitters, strikes out quite a bit. He's the same age as Hill, but is a lefty batter. That power has probably been helped a bit by the Arizona ballpark, but we can expect close to the same with our park.
Lost in the shuffle here, and I feel like this is the most brilliant part of the deal, is the fact that the Jays no longer have to question themselves on whether or not to decline Hill's contract option(s), let alone offer arbitration. Apparently, and I haven't watched this yet (update- I guess I can't? Maybe there will be another version available, I dunno), so I'm going solely off the analysis of the trade by Eno Sarris at fangraphs, which I honestly skimmed through really quickly since I couldn't sit still due to my excitement of Aaron Hill having been traded (*breath*, this sentence is a fucking mess), in his press conference, AA said that he'd be very open to both Hill and Mac returning in the offseason.
If Hill’s option wasn’t going to be picked up, getting a player with a better chance at picks is a no-brainer. At the press conference today, GM Alex Anthopolous said he wouldn’t rule out either player returning to the team. John McDondald can be a valuable utility player, and Hill at a cheaper rate might make sense. Both players could return — after they give one last gift to the Blue Jays.
Hill will be a Type-B free agent, but probably won't get an arbitration offer, since, despite his double dosage of suck, players almost always get raises in arbitration, meaning if he'll likely get $5.5MM or more. Nobody in their right mind will give him that after what he's done for two straight years. He'll be non-tendered and will become a free agent.
There were ideas floating around about the Jays declining the options and non-tendering him, but bringing him back for a paycut. I got mad everytime someone suggested that, since in no other profession would you accept the same job if someone fired you and then offered you less money. Now, if the Jays want to bring him back on the cheap, I actually think it's possible. The market for him will be (guessing here) solely 1-year deals, possibly with club options and incentives, for $3MM tops? I mean the 2B market is pretty thin, probably the thinnest of any position, and if Kelly Johnson doesn't stick around, and Hech isn't ready, which I highly doubt he will be, someone's gotta hop in there. I don't fucking want to see it, but if Johnson rejects arbitration to become a free agent, he might seriously be the best option available for a while. I don';t think he disliked Toronto while he was here, and seriously, who wouldn't want to be part of this organization the way things are shaping up.
My favorite aspect, though, is that now, if the Jays actually do want to bring him back next year, they don't have to decline his contract options or offer him arbitration. The D-Backs get to do that dirty work. I mean, I know they traded him away, and thus, passive-aggressively declined them, but still. The Jays will instead offer Kelly Johnson, the much better player, arbitration and maybe a multi-year contract, obtaining at least a type-B compensation (and maybe type-A, given how close he is to that) if he declines (thin 2B market, remember).
Now some people (especially those over at MLBTR's comment section of the post reporting this deal) think that the Jays overpaid for the last month of Johnson, thanks to Hill's "need for a change of scenery" and "chances to return to form". I call these people idiots, of course. You see, Aaron Hill is bad at baseball, and John Mcdonald is a 36-year-old bench player. Both of whom are free agents at the end of the year. Hill will not become draft picks, Johnson might. People in that thread think that Hill may very well bounce back and become reasonably good again, and that is plenty true. My rebuttal is obviously the fact that Johnson can just remain the same player he has been his whole career, and he'll probably remain more valuable and better than Hill.
Johnson has been way better than Hill, both offensively and defensively, for the last two seasons, and was real fucking good last season. I think it's pretty safe to say both of the following:
- If Aaron Hill rebounds to be a quality player again next season, he will rebound to approximately be a Kelly Johnson comparable.
- Kelly Johnson is much more likely to rebound and put up numbers on par with career averages than Aaron Hill.
In closing, it's going to be great, even if it only last until next offseason, to not see Aaron Hill hit another goddamn popup and kill a rally for my home team.