As Jeff Blair and Mike Wilner discussed during Prime Time Sports Thursday (look for it on iTunes as it isn't on The Fan's site proper. 4 o'clock hour, second segment), Aaron Hill's contract options are now far from a forgone conclusion. Hill's deal contract calls for $4 mil this year and $5 mil next. The next three years are club options; three of which can be activated at the end of this season with only two available at the end of 2011.
Blair intimates that Blue Jays high-ups considered re-jigging Hill's deal at some point this season, sewing up the option years to avoid the ugliness. Aaron Hill's precipitous 2010 dropoff pretty much silenced all that talk in a hurry. Wilner goes as far as to suggest he might be a non-tender candidate were the contract situation a little different.
For a little perspective on how bad/shocking Hill's line continues to be in 2010, continue this comparison:
- .208/.280/.386/.292 wOBA
- .231/.274/.435/.301 wOBA
Wilner and Blair both agree the team almost certainly cannot pick up all three option years, a thought which mildly shocked me. Is this a road AA and the brain trust want to go down? What kind of fallout can we expect if the Jays tell Aaron Hill to prove, in no uncertain terms, that 2009 wasn't a fluke.
That isn't especially fair, since 2009 was almost certainly a fluke. Not a lucky fluke but a once-in-a-career, unrepeatable fluke. He can still pull himself together and have a fine career but 36 home runs again is a pretty tall order.
As Stoeten pointed out, the Jays seem to send out very mixed messages (via their manager) when it comes to veteran players. "Come to Toronto, we'll let you play!" might not be the official mantra of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club, but the implication exists in the minds of Jays watchers. While I'm not above requiring young players to earn their large cheques, the Jays politely asking one of the franchise cornerstones to play it out and show that he's worth it can only disquiet the next generation of talent.
Hill is sure to say All the Right Things in the press, talking about earning his contract and understanding the official position. I don't know that this kind of pressure is the type that all players thrive under. Hill performed beautifully with his deal in hand last year. Will putting him under the gun help or harm that?
There are a lot of questions arising from Hill's off year. How Alex Anthopoulos and his cohorts handle this sends a loud message through the clubhouse. Will a guy like Travis Snider (should he ever get any at bats again) be less inclined to a sign a similar deal, preferring to take his chances or demand guaranteed years? You can bet Kyle Drabek's agent is watching this whole situation very, very closely.
Reuters image courtesy of Daylife