The BoSox Injection staff reflects on the 2016 season by grading each member of the Boston Red Sox based on expectations for them entering the season.
Aaron Hill is well known to long time Boston Red Sox fans for seven years he spent playing second base for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2005-11. His best year was 2009 when he was an All-Star while hitting 36 homers, 37 doubles and knocking in 108 runs.
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In 2016, Hill was finishing out his likely last big contract (five years, $46 million) when the Diamondbacks traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers because Arizona was willing to cover $6.5 million of the $12 million he was owed this year.
In Boston, Travis Shaw had earned the third base job in Spring Training and was doing well in the first two months of the season, hitting .292/.358/.508 including five homers in May. A June slump, indicated by a .586 OPS revealed Shaw’s inability to hit left-handed pitching (he would end the season with just a .187/234/.365 slash line against left-handers).
On July 7, the Red Sox tried to improve their lineup versus lefties by acquiring Hill from the Brewers for two mid-level prospects. After two sub-par years in Arizona, Hill seemed to be having a bounce back year with Milwaukee (.282/.359/.421) with eight homers in 254 at-bats. What the Red Sox may not have noticed was that five of those homers came in two multi-homer games against the woeful Cincinnati Reds. Hill batted .500 in 30 plate appearances against the Reds. If you take out those seven games against the Reds, Hill hit just .254 for the Brewers this year.
Hill never really got going with the Red Sox. He posted just a .608 OPS in July then a .588 OPS in August. The Red Sox became desperate enough in September to bring up rookie phenom Yoan Moncada to play third base. After a 4-for-10 start, Moncada flamed out, striking out in his last nine trips to the dish.
In September, in limited time, Hill managed an .811 OPS but that was in only 31 plate appearances and six starts.
In Game 3 of the ALDS, Hill pinch hit for Brock Holt versus lefty Andrew Miller despite the fact that Holt had doubled off Miller earlier in the series. Hill struck out in what turned out to be his only plate appearance of the postseason. While never having a problem against lefties in his career, somehow Holt had been only 4-for-38 this year against them.
Hill is a free agent now that the season is over. This was part of the reason he was acquired, as a stopgap for the rest of the 2016 season. Even if he had an outstanding season in Boston, he was playing for his next contract.
After acquiring Hill, the Red Sox might have realized that his early season success was the result of a couple fluke games against a weak opponent. Hill’s .577 OPS with just two homers and nine RBI in 137 plate appearances just did not get it done in Boston. The Red Sox likely thought they were going to get better production from Hill but he was a disappointment. The Red Sox juggernaut offense wasn’t really relying on him so it wasn’t earth-shattering, just well below what they had hoped.