Last offseason, the Twinkies traded incumbent shortstop J.J. Hardy to Baltimore for minor league relievers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey and signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka of Nippon Professional Baseball's Chiba Lotte Mariners to a three-year, $9.25M deal.
While Hardy hit 30 homers, batted .269/.310/.491 and signed a below-market three-year, $22.5M extension with the O's, Jacobson walked the yard at Double-A, Hoey got lit up in MLB mop-up work, and Minnesota shortstops (Nishioka, Trevor Plouffe, Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert) combined for a rancid .238/.292/.320 line. Plus, the four were a collective 16 runs worse than an average defensive shortstop, according to Ultimate Zone Rating.
Carroll, brought in to be the everyday shortstop, has some concerns. He'll turn 38 in February, the super-sub has never been a full-time starter at the infield's premium defensive position, and he's downright Punto-like in the power department (it's been five years since he slugged over .350). Even so, it's hard to knock the Twins for adding a good source of OBP at a modest price.
Carroll is one of the most selective hitters in the game. The righty batter has swung at just 35 percent of pitches seen over the past three years, sixth-lowest among MLB hitters. Carroll's patience and contact ability (his 10 miss percentage is just outside the top 10 among MLB hitters over that time) leads to lots of deep counts. With 4.3 pitches per plate appearance, Carroll trails only Jayson Werth, Daric Barton, Nick Johnson, Brett Gardner and Kevin Youkilis. That's how you manage league-average offense (.286/.364/.343 since '09) despite rarely getting the ball out of the infield.
Arizona Diamondbacks signed 2B Aaron Hill to a two-year, $11M contract. The Diamondbacks previously declined Hill's $8M options for Hill in both 2012 and 2013.
Hill did perform well for Arizona after coming over from Toronto as part of a deal for Kelly Johnson in late August (.315/.386/.492 in 142 PA), but he still hit just .246/.299/.356 overall in 571 PA. He doesn't work the count much, with a career walk rate hovering around 6.5 percent, and he seems to be the sort of batter who posts lower-than average batting average on balls in play totals (.255 over the past three seasons, .285 career) due to his hitting many fly balls and more pop-ups that most. That leaves Hill dependent upon his power to keep him from being a liability at the plate. And last year, that needed sock was nowhere to be found.
Hill smacked only eight home runs in 2011. Unless he got a pitch right down the pike, he didn't make pitchers pay. Check out his in-play slugging percentage compared to the league average:
Hill struggled badly against pitches located on the outside corner, and pitchers were well aware. They pounded Hill away all year:
About half of the pitches that Hill got were located away, and he slugged just .255 against those offerings. Kosuke Fukudome was the only qualified hitter to show less thump against outside pitches.
Hill is considered a capable defender, and Chase Field is a good place for a righty hitter to re-discover his extra-base power. But I wonder whether the D-Backs simply would have been better off keeping Johnson in the first place and trying to sign the free agent to an extension instead. Johnson figures to be the superior hitting heading forward, with The Hardball Times' Oliver projecting a .237/.322/.415 line for him in 2012, compared to Hill's .244/.299/.395.