Jays don't pick up Hill's 2014 option
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
|Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill hits an RBI double off Yankees starter Phil Hughes during a spring training game in Tampa, Florida on March 23, 2011. (STEVE NESIUS/Reuters)
TORONTO - As expected, Alex Anthopoulos decided to take a knee on Aaron Hill.
The Blue Jays had until Opening Day to decide whether to lock into a trio of option years — 2012, 2013 and 2014 — on Hill’s services in the creative contract drawn up by Anthopoulos, the Jays general manager, and they chose what they believe is the prudent route, a thumbs down.
The knee was not directed to Hill’s groin, but less sensitive individuals could have interpreted the manoeuvre as showing a decided lack of faith in one’s overall ability.
However, that doesn’t mean that Hill, who no longer has an option on the year 2014, will be shown the door any time soon.
The Jays have until the end of this year’s World Series to decide whether to exercise a pair of options that would pay the second baseman $8 million US in both 2012 and 2013. Out the window is a guaranteed $10 million he would have received in 2014.
If, say, that Hill has a second bummer season in a row — he hit all of .205 in 2010 — the Jays can decline to pick up the two remaining options and Hill can become a free agent at the end of the season. Hill will make $5 million this season.
Naturally enough, this being opening day and all, everybody was putting a happy face on the decision, Hill included.
“It was fine,” Hill said of his discussion Thursday night with Anthopoulos. “Business-wise it is what it is. He knows I want to stay here and there’s no reason why we can’t keep a line of communication open throughout the year. Let’s see what happens. There’s no hard feelings from me.”
He was asked if he would use the Jays’ decision as a motivating factor for this season. But Hill declined to take the bait.
“No, because again, coming off of last year, it’s just more motivation for me to be who I am and be the player I can be,” he said. “Just to come back and have a bounce-back year is good enough for me, personally.”
Hill added he wasn’t distracted or concerned by the last-minute aspect of the Jays decision.
“I didn’t want it to come down to the last day but it did and it is what it is,” he said. “I’m glad it happened and now we can just go and play baseball. It’s a fun day for everybody in here (the Jays clubhouse) and it’s the last thing we need to be talking about.”
Still, how can he not interpret the Jays’ decision as anything short of a slap in the face?
“Well, I know what you’re saying but I know they want me here,” he said. “That’s why I said there’s no reason why we can’t continue to talk throughout the year. He asked me if that’s okay, if for some reason we want to evaluate what’s going on and see how we can do it (an extension) during the year I said: ‘I’m open for it.’
“It’s not playing for another contract, the motivation is coming back and having a bounce-back year. You play good and good things happen.”
Anthopoulos, meanwhile, was merely protecting the Jays’ butt, which is his job. There’s nothing to say that Hill won’t be locked up for 2014 and beyond at some future date, but that all depends on how he plays.
“We always have the ability to extend beyond that (2014),” Anthopoulos said. “We see Aaron as a core player. Just in light of the fact he was a little bit banged up last year (a hamstring issue) and during the spring (a right quad injury) and because of the season last year, it made sense for the organization. Then we can make a determination one way or the other, but knowing that at the minimum we have the ability to keep him here two years beyond this year and we always have that ability to add a year or two more.
“The contract was put in place for this exact reason, for his benefit and for ours.”
Right now, the benefit all sits with the Jays.