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11/15/11 7:37 PM EST
D-backs, Hill finalize two-year contract
Deal worth $11M as infield picture comes into focus
By Barry M. Bloom and Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The D-backs' infield picture became much clearer as they reached agreement with second baseman Aaron Hill on a two-year contract, Kevin Towers, the team's general manager, confirmed on Monday.
Hill passed a physical on Tuesday, making the deal, which is worth $11 million, official.
Towers had set Monday as a deadline to complete the Hill deal so he could get on with other club matters at this week's meetings. With Hill back in the fold, as well as the recent re-signings of utility man Willie Bloomquist and backup shortstop John McDonald, the D-backs can leave Ryan Roberts at third base and would appear to be set even if shortstop Stephen Drew is slow to return from his season-ending surgery to repair a fractured right ankle.
"This gives us added protection in the infield with Stephen out," Towers said on Monday.
On Friday, Towers said he wasn't sure whether Drew would be ready for Spring Training. As of now, Drew is not yet through his recovery period and thus hadn't begun running or baseball activities. Drew shattered his right ankle sliding into home this past July 21 and subsequently also underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia.
"I don't think he's doing anything baseball specific yet," Towers said on Friday. "It's still the healing process taking over. Hopefully the first part of the year he can start doing some baseball-specific activities, some agility drills just to find out how the ankle feels."
Towers obtained Hill along with McDonald from the Blue Jays for second baseman Kelly Johnson this past Aug. 23. After hitting .225 for the Blue Jays, Hill hit .315 with two homers, 12 doubles, 16 RBIs and 23 runs scored in 33 games for the D-backs and seemed to recapture the form in which he compiled an .829 OPS (on-base plus slugging) for Toronto in 2009. Hill's OPS with the D-backs was .878.
Still, Towers declined to exercise an $8 million option for 2012 on Hill, who became a free agent on Oct. 31, hoping to sign him at a discounted rate. Two days later, Towers signed the free agent McDonald for two years at $3 million.
With his infield set, Towers said it is now time to get on with other things.
"We could probably use another left-handed bat behind [right-handed-hitting first baseman Paul] Goldschmidt," Towers said on Monday. "We might circle around to Lyle Overbay again, who's a free agent. We could also use some more starting pitching and a lefty reliever. Our biggest concern in the offseason was retaining all of our infield depth, and we were able to do that. Now our focus is really on pitching."
Towers said he had already reached out to a pair of veteran starters. There's the possibility he might try to sign former Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who is a free agent. Left-hander Joe Saunders -- a main cog of last year's rotation -- is under control of the D-backs, but Towers said he isn't sure that he will tender Saunders a contract by the Dec. 12 date for those who are arbitration eligible.
Saunders, a five-years-plus player, who earned $5.5 million this past season, could stand to earn a lot more through arbitration based on his 12-13 record, 3.69 ERA and 1.307 WHIP.