Kirk Gibson gleefully smiles at the possibility of giving Aaron Hill additional fist-bumps in 2012 and 2013.
As ESPN's Jim Bowden hinted at earlier today, and as initially reported by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic on Twitter, the Arizona Diamondbacks have officially re-signed second baseman Aaron Hill to a two-year contract worth $11MM, with the final figure coming from SI's Jon Heyman. This move appears to lock in the everyday lineup, with Ryan Roberts staying at third base and Hill keeping the everyday second baseman job that he thrived in at the end of last season. The only real question is whether or not Stephen Drew will be healthy in time for Opening Day, but he should regain his spot as the everyday shortstop whenever he is able to come back, also joining Paul Goldschmidt, Gerardo Parra, Chris Young, Justin Upton, and Miguel Montero as the D-backs' everyday eight.
Originally acquired alongside John McDonald in exchange for Kelly Johnson before the waiver deadline last year, Hill's history of struggles over the last couple of years with the Blue Jays has been well-documented. After hitting .286/.330/.499 with 36 home runs and a 114 wRC+ in his breakout 2009 campaign, Hill clubbed 26 home runs in 2010 but fell to .205/.271/.394 and a 76 wRC+. The primary culprit behind this was Hill simply not squaring up the ball anymore, seeing his LD% drop to a mere 10.6% in 2010 (18.9% career) and his FB% spike to over 50%, sinking his BABIP to a mere .196, which in turn collapsed his overall line. In an effort to continue hitting more and more home runs, it seems that Hill lost his solid contact-hitting abilities, which proved to be a bigger loss than the home runs could make up for.
Hill reversed many of these trends in 2011, seeing his LD% jump back up to 18.7% with the Blue Jays and his FB% settling back down to 43.5%, but the production still didn't come. Despite the batted ball rates returning to normalcy, the BABIP did not follow, staying at a mere .242 in 104 games with the Jays. His batting line remained stagnant, at .225/.270/.313 with a 61 wRC+, plummeting Hill to below-replacement-level depths. However, Arizona's scouts remained high on Hill, and GM Kevin Towers pounced on the opportunity to snag him from the Jays. Despite the subsequent uproar the move created (guilty!), Hill responded by spiking his LD% to legendary levels for the rest of the year, with a 29.5% rate for the rest of the season and a .315/.386/.492 line and 134 wRC+ in 33 games.
Hill's total line for 2011 ended up at .246/.299/.356, with an 82 wRC+, eight home runs, and 21 stolen bases in 28 attempts, with a career-high 21.2% LD% and .268 BABIP, compared to a career-average of .285. Hill's LD% might regress a bit in 2012, but his BABIP should nonetheless continue to rise from its 2010 depths so long as the D-backs keep Hill away from the black hole of fly-balls he was sucked into during that woeful 2010 campaign. Additionally, Hill gives Arizona a quality defender at second base, with a career 15.1 UZR in 908 games, playing exclusively at second base since 2007. His career UZR/150 at second is 4.2, and one of his middle infield partners next year, John McDonald, is a familiar double play partner from their shared time in Toronto.