Ever since the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they were having an open competition for the starting shortstop position, many of us (myself included) figured that the loser would be traded. So far, that has not been the case. Maybe both Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius have a future with the D’backs on the Major League level. Think about it, young players under club control for the next five years playing together at two prime positions. Of course, there is one tiny detail that needs to be worked out before this happens.
That would be trading Aaron Hill.
It would be tough to part with the 32-year old Hill, who is still a very good player and one of those character guys everyone seems to want on their team. There is also the matter of his contract which runs through 2016 at $12 million per year. However, it will be an uphill battle for the D’backs to make the playoffs at this point and even if there is a big run left in this team, it might be wise to think about trading some parts for something fresh. Now, I understand Hill has been red-hot lately and trading him would seem to be foolish. But if the D’backs are going to keep their manager and general manger beyond this year and this group of players who will have had two or three years together without being above .500, then it would make sense to start dealing some guys who can bring back some value. There may not be a better time to deal the popular Hill than now or even at the end of the season if he keeps this pace up. Trading him while he is still productive means that the D’backs could assume less (if any) of the over $25 million dollars owed plus bring back prospects that might be more Major League-ready.
So if Hill goes, who plays where? That would be Gregorius at short and Owings at second. Let’s face it, there have been at least three or four instances this season where I have (and so have you) said, “Didi would have made that play”. Just think back to the throwing error this past Wednesday night. While not the offensive threat Owings is, I believe Gregorius could develop into at least a decent enough bat that he would not be considered an automatic out. He has a slash line of .291/.373/.448 at Triple A Reno right now and while the Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s domain, can’t you see that translating to a .260/.330/.400 line in Phoenix? As far as Owings replacing Hill at second, the power numbers probably won’t be there but perhaps the D’backs have found a solution at the top of the lineup. He knows how to get on base and once there, can develop into a threat. Hill is a better defender having previously won a Gold Glove at the position while some feel second is Owings’s more natural position.
I realize that trading Hill is not the easiest nor is it the most popular move the D’backs could make. I, myself would have a hard enough time endorsing it. However, in order for this franchise to snap out of its doldrums and break the cycle of mediocrity, bold moves need to be made, ones that don’t involve trading young players for older ones. After the names of Upton, Bauer, Skaggs and Eaton have been jettisoned from the organization, it is time to go the other way. Start by putting both Gregorius and Owings on the field at the same time and watch them play together for the next five to ten years. Saying goodbye to Aaron Hill will hurt but if he can bring back the catcher and young arm this club desperately needs, then it has to be done.