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Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill looks to throw after getting Baltimore Orioles' Nick Markakis out at second on a ground ball hit by Ty Wigginton in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 18, 2010 in Baltimore. Wigginton was safe on the play. (Gail Burton/AP)
Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill looks to throw after getting Baltimore Orioles' Nick Markakis out at second on a ground ball hit by Ty Wigginton in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 18, 2010 in Baltimore. Wigginton was safe on the play. (Gail Burton/AP)

JEFF BLAIR

One Hilluva team player Add to ...

Hitting .290 and going to the All-Star Game or hiccupping his way through a year-long slump, Aaron Hill is a team player.

So it is no surprise that Hill said Tuesday he is open to a shift to third base in 2011 if general manager Alex Anthopoulos decides trading for a second baseman is the best way to upgrade the Toronto Blue Jays' offence.

Now, nobody in authority talked about it publicly, or has even hinted about it to Hill's face, mostly because it's difficult to envision that kind of trade being consummated any time other than the off-season. But it's been "out there," as a topic of discussion - and not just in the blogosphere.

Anthopoulos is not afraid to be creative. No slave to statistics - with the exception of cost-effective salaries - he nonetheless realizes a little more awareness of on-base percentage wouldn't be a bad thing for this lineup. There is a sum-of-its-parts thing at work here, and that doesn't even take into account the fact that Anthopoulos is already on record as saying even though he acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Atlanta Braves, Cuban shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechevarria will not be held back. Somebody will be moved for him.

Hill's average slipped under .200 on May 9, when he was in the throes of a season-long 0-for-18 slump, and stayed there until July 20. He has, simply, never recovered his swing since injuring his hamstring, requiring an early season stint on the 15-day disabled list.

Hill, who played third base, second base and shortstop in his first year in the majors (2005) before settling in as a full-time second baseman in 2007, went to the All-Star Game last season en route to fashioning a comeback from post-concussion syndrome. In the spring, there was some talk within the club of possibly reworking Hill's contract to guarantee a series of option years on the horizon. Now, it's in a holding pattern. The Blue Jays have options on 2012, 2013 and 2014. The club can exercise all three options before Opening Day next season, or they can wait until 10 days after the 2011 World Series when they can exercise a two- or one-year option. So this is no small matter.

"My first, gut instinct would be to say that I'm comfortable where I am, but if you're bringing somebody in to make the team better, yeah I'd move position," said Hill, who will be paid $5-million next season, $8-million in 2012 and 2013 and $10-million in 2014.

So there are decisions to be made this winter and next spring, in addition to more immediate matters. Regardless of what happens at the trade deadline on Saturday, this will be a different-looking Blue Jays team in 2011. Brett Wallace will be favoured for first base and nobody wants Edwin Encarnacion at third. Jose Bautista is a possibility at third - but what if somebody is willing to overpay for Bautista? Or, what if there's something to be said for leaving well enough alone and keeping that throwing arm in right field where it has been so strongly utilized?

Factor in that a new manager will likely have his own ideas and it is clear that this is a work in progress. Skeptics might say Hill is simply being malleable because his numbers make it hard to be otherwise. That sells Hill short - pardon the pun.

"I mean, I'd like to think that's how everybody would be open to it, you know?" Hill said. "Second, third, short - you're still playing every day. Alex wants to make the team better. Alex should want to make the team better."

 

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