What does Perry Hill want?

The more I think about the Perry Hill situation, the more I think it might just be about money. It’s the only thing that really makes sense.

There has been talk about Hill’s reaction to the trades. Dejan Kovacevic reported the following yesterday:
Plain and simple, it is that management had assured him upon signing up late in 2008 that there would be no massive rebuilding, that the infielders with whom he would work would be kept around. It was understood that there could be a trade here or there, but nothing as wholesale as what occurred.

In today’s chat on MLB.com, Frank Coonelly addressed that issue:
21thebest: Frank, is the story reported by Dejan Kovacevic true with respect to Perry Hill?

Coonelly: 21thebest, it has been extremely disappointing to see various comments attributed to Perry in connection with negotiations over his contract appear in the newspapers. It is never productive, and is indeed counterproductive, to conduct negotiations through the media. We have declined to do so and will continue with that policy. I will say, however, that no promises were made to Perry or any other member of the Major League staff that any individual player or any group of players would be deemed as untouchable by the club.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Frank Coonelly say that no player is untouchable. In regards to the infielders Hill had to work with, I find it hard to believe that he was told they would be retained. If he was told this, I find it hard to believe he bought the line.
Adam LaRoche was set to become a free agent after this season. Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez both had expensive options, too expensive for what they brought to the table. All three were mentioned as potential trade chips this year. I don’t think anyone believed all three would be retained if the right offer came along.
That’s what happened in the case of Jack and Freddy. The Giants came calling with Tim Alderson for Sanchez, and the Mariners gave up Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin, and Nathan Adcock for Wilson and Ian Snell. As for LaRoche, the return wasn’t as great, but it’s better than getting nothing for him at the end of the season.
I have a hard time believing that Hill thought the infield would be retained, especially when Jack Wilson was mentioned in so many trade talks at the time that he actually showed up to the Winter Meetings.
How much did the rebuild actually impact the Pirates? Adam LaRoche was pretty much gone after the season at first base. Now we’ve got a few options, such as Garrett Jones, Steve Pearce, and Jeff Clement for the 2010 season. I think Jones ends up at the position by mid-season 2010, which wouldn’t be much of a drop off offensively if he continues this hitting. I also don’t think Jones would be too much of a drop off on defense from LaRoche.
At second we have Delwyn Young, who has made great strides on defense in the last month. He’s also hitting for a .290/.342/.413 line in 286 at-bats this season. Meanwhile Freddy is a career .300/.336/.420 hitter. The numbers are very similar on offense.
At short there’s Ronny Cedeno, who has more raw skills than Delwyn does at second. Cedeno has also come alive since joining the Pirates, after struggling in Seattle. Jack Wilson is one of the best defensive shortstops, but isn’t quite that strong on offense. In his career, Wilson has a .268/.310/.375 line, although that includes his 200 hit season, which stands out as a fluke when looking at his other yearly totals. It’s only a limited time, but Cedeno has a .298/.359/.488 line. I doubt he maintains that, although I wouldn’t put him any lower than the .269/.328/.352 line he had last year with the Cubs.
Delwyn and Cedeno are at the least equal to Jack and Freddy when it comes to offense. I believe they also both have the ability to match their counterparts on defense, with the proper coaching from Hill. That’s where I think the problem lies.
There’s a big difference between coaching Jack/Freddy and coaching Cedeno/Delwyn. Coaching Jack and Freddy requires a bit of fine tuning for each player. Coaching Delwyn Young requires Hill to show up early to the ball park every day and teach basic fundamentals. It’s the difference between putting the icing on the cake, and baking the whole cake from scratch.
It would be one thing if this were a one time deal with Delwyn. That’s not the case. The Pirates want to bring up Jeff Clement to get him working with Hill at first base. There’s expectations that Hill can improve Pedro Alvarez’s defense at third base, which is no easy task.
It seems that Hill is being looked at as a miracle worker, and for good reason. Look at what he did for Andy LaRoche this year, and look at what he’s doing for Delwyn Young right now. It’s no wonder that Perry Hill likes Ronny Cedeno: he’s the only guy we have added who had any defensive skills before Hill started working with him.
When Hill signed on, his job duties included working with three players who needed some polishing on defense, and one player who needed a lot of work. Aside from Andy LaRoche, Hill wasn’t going to see a big workload.
Since he was hired, the Pirates added Delwyn Young with the view of making him a second baseman, Jeff Clement with the view of making him a first baseman, and Ronny Cedeno, who has good skills, but could still use improvement. Suddenly the workload is much heavier for Hill. My theory is that, due to the increased expectations, and the increased workload, Hill is going to want an increase in his salary. That’s reasonable, something anyone would expect with increased responsibilities at their job.
Hopefully the Pirates can retain Hill. There’s no question the impact he’s had on the team. Last year the Pirates ranked 22nd in the majors in UZR. That wasn’t a one year fluke, as the year before they ranked 20th in UZR. This year they rank 4th in the majors, and Hill’s infield has played a big role in that improvement.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch 9/2/09

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