The Boston Red Sox are the first AL East team to strike a July trade, bringing in infielder Aaron Hill and cash from Milwaukee for a pair of prospects: right-hander Aaron Wilkerson and second baseman Wendell Rijo.
After being shipped from Arizona to the Brewers during the offseason, Hill has produced a rebound season of sorts, slashing .283/.359/.421 with eight homers, 11 doubles and 29 RBIs in nearly 300 plate appearances.
Now in his 12th big league season, Hill has successfully made the switch from second base to third in Milwaukee having started 55 games at the hot corner so far this season as against 16 starts at second base. In his career, the 34-year-old has played over 10,000 innings at second, over 1,100 at third and over 500 at shortstop though he hasn’t spent any time at short since 2006.
A long time Blue Jay, Hill is quite familiar with the pressure that playing for an American League East team brings. He gives the Red Sox a versatile player who can give Dustin Pedroia some rest at second base while forming a platoon at third with Travis Shaw. After getting off to a hot start to begin the year, Shaw is hitting just .211 against southpaws with just eight extra-base hits. That’s opposed to the .294 with 29 extra-base hits and 34 RBIs he has against right-handed pitching.
During his career, Hill has almost no such split to speak of though in 2016 he’s hitting right-handers 29 percentage points better: .292 vs .263 against lefties.
In Wilkerson, the Brewers get a high-level minor leaguer who’s had three years of professional experience. Wilkerson has split 2016 between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, combining for a 6-3 record and 2.14 ERA in 16 starts. He’s also struck out 102 batters and walked only 25. One would have to think that he’ll likely get some sort of opportunity to make his big league debut with the Brewers, particularly if they choose to trade either Matt Garza or Jimmy Nelson at the deadline.
Wendell Rijo is also starting to reach the higher levels of the minor league system, currently spending most of the year thus far at Double-A Portland. In 51 games at Double-A, Rijo has noticeably struggled at the plate. He’s hitting just .186 with a .510 OPS though he does have 11 doubles, one home run and 12 runs batted in. That said, the bat wasn’t as much of an issue earlier on in his career so perhaps we are just seeing the effects of an adjustment period that should start to turn around in the second half of the season.
This trade is really a win-win for both sides because the Red Sox get a really experienced bench bat who can help them quite a lot down the stretch and won’t be any long-term issue since he’s a free agent at seasons end. The Brewers meanwhile can continue their rebuild and get a couple of minor leaguers who might be able to help them in the next couple of years.