The Brewers are going to get a good haul for Jonathan Lucroy. He’s easily been the best catcher in baseball this year and his contract is super cheap. There’s been plenty of trade talk surrounding the resurgent Ryan Braun. Even with some recent struggles there will probably be plenty of interest in slugger Chris Carter. These are all things we’ve known for a long time. But it recently occurred to me that at the trade deadline, the Brewers most sought after player is probably going to be Aaron Hill.
I’m just as surprised to be writing these words as you might be reading them. But after an abysmal start to the season—169/208/246 in April—Aaron Hill has rehabbed his image by hitting 265/352/413 which equates to a 106 wRC+. That’s actually quite impressive. And even though it was bolstered mostly by a huge May—357/455/583 vs 234/357/340 so far in June—it’s enough to convince me that Hill can and will be traded by the August 1 waiver deadline.
Think back to last year. I’m always making this comparison, but it’s because it just seems to perfect not to. Aramis Ramirez was traded to the Pirates after hitting 247/295/430. And he was limited to just third base while making a prorated portion of his $14 million salary. Hill is hitting much better, can play third and second—earning average marks in both areas by DRS (+1 at 2B and +2 at 3B)—and will only be owed a prorated portion of the $5.5 million Milwaukee is paying him—Arizona is covering the other $6.5 million of his total $12 million salary this year. My point here is that Aaron Hill has very clearly re-established himself as a trade-able commodity.
Teams looking for a second baseman may have more interest in Hill than those looking strictly for a third baseman. So far this year among qualified second baseman he ranks 12th in fWAR—and 10th in wRC+. He drops a bit to 17th among qualified third baseman in both fWAR and wRC+. But Hill’s primary appeal to teams will be his ability to play both positions. Teams are always looking for big sluggers, starting pitching, and relief at the deadline. Those are the trades that get the headlines. But they’re also always looking for flexibility. And in terms of 2B/3B, the Brewers arguably have the best “complimentary” player available.
Don’t misunderstand me though. I’m not arguing that the Brewers will be in line for a big return from a potential Aaron Hill trade. Whatever they do get, it will be light compared to what they can expect for Lucroy, Braun, and perhaps even Chris Carter. But I do think the Brewers will be in a position to maximize whatever value Hill does possess. This is the best-case scenario we were talking about when the Brewers first made the Segura/Wagner-Diaz/Anderson/Hill trade.
I’m enamored by what the Brewers might net for Jonathan Lucroy in a little over a month. And I’m very curious to see what Ryan Braun’s ultimate fate is. I’m sure there will be other trades to come as well. And in the larger view, an Aaron Hill trade probably won’t move the needle very much. But not every trade has to be a big one. And honestly seeing these smaller trades get worked out can be really interesting. Look at what the Brewers got for Jason Rogers and Cy Sneed! You never know.