03 June 2008
Looking for a Deal: Bill Hall
Posted by Jon Shepherd
Bill Hall is a sad Brewer. He is not fond of being a super utility guy and certainly not fond of losing playing time to Russell Branyan, who must be one of the most successful unwanted players. Russell can rake (righties at least), but annoys coaches with his many strikeouts and rumored poor behavior. Anyway, the Brewers signed him out of obscurity to boost their 3B play. Bill Hall feels left out.
Bill Hall was selected out of Nettleton High School in Mississippi as a raw almost five tool player in 1998. He'd show traces of power (i.e., 15 hrs in 89 games as a 21 year old in HiA), but always showing that he was overmatched at the plate (4-6 K:BB ratio through the minors). The Brewers kept promoting him though because of the athletic ability. Honestly, looking at his minor league career . . . he really only deserved a call up once when he graduated from Rookie league Ogden with a 289/329/421 clip. He did well enough to be at the A club at that point. Bill Hall was rushed. His batting ability just did not develop, but the Brewers were sick and tired of playing Jose Hernandez at short. At least, that is what it looks like. Either they wanted to replace Jose with cheap talent or they were just overwhelmed by Bill's physical ability enough to overlook his 264/305/387 minor league split.
Bill's first full season was at 24 in 2004. He contributed to a 238/276/374 line over 415 plate appearances. He fared significantly better his second season with an OPS+ of 116. He displayed plus power in addition to achieving a higher solid contact rate. He still struck out a lot and he was not much of a baserunner despite his above average speed. 2006 was his breakout season as he hit 35 homeruns, increased his walk rate by 40%, and OPS'd 125. It was after this season that the Brewers signed him to 4 year, 24 MM extension with a 9.25 (0.5bo) MM team option. It has not gone well. To accomodate phenom J.J. Hardy, Hall was moved off shortstop to centerfield in 2007. He responded with Freddie Bynum-like numbers. This year he has been move more toward 3B and the same result has occurred.
Is Hall an option for the Orioles?
The first thing to realize is Hall has a contract that will go on for two and a half years. 2008 carries a prorated portion of 4.8MM, 2009 is at 6.8MM, 2010 at 8.4MM, and a 0.5MM buyout for 2011. The amount remaining on Hall's deal is close to what remains on Huff's deal. Huff may also provide better defense and a more well-rounded bat for the Brewers at third base. This would be an even monetary transaction, so Hall would essentially be free during these next three years as Huff's cost is already sunk. To make the deal go through, it may be necessary to add a prospect on our end. Maybe we could deal Chris Roberson or Luis Terrero. If it has to be someone with upside, maybe Paco Figueroa. Truth be told, both Huff and Hall have little value except the Brewers need a 3B and we need a SS. It might be a useful deal between the ball clubs and being on the hook for one year of Huff may appeal to the Brewers. Though, they may just want prospects. In that case, maybe Paco Figueroa and Luis Lebron. Of course, then Hall costs about 15-17 MM. If his production will be similar to Freddie Bynum, it will not be worth it.
Is Hall an improvement over Bynum, Cintron, or Furcal?
The graph is slightly different from what I produced when I did the Nick Markakis worth projection. This one includes defense. I thought Nick's worth as a hitter completely outshone his relative worth as a RF in comparison to other RFs. As short, I think we need to consider this as offensive output is far narrower and defense can play a large role in worth. Bill Hall is projected to have somewhat poor defense at short over the next two and a half years. He will cost his team about 15-20 runs a year playing shortstop. I adjusted his bat to be in line with his performance so far this year and the projections are still somewhat optimistic. He should be worth about 15.2MM in terms of production and cost the Orioles 15.2MM, so they should roughly get out of him what they put in. If they deal Huff, that may actually be a plus value. I haven't run his numbers.
We also have residing options in Alex Cintron and Freddie Bynum. The projection approach I used did not view either optimistically. Bynum is considered to be worth a win or two above replacement level. His value would be about 5MM and I imagine we would pay him something closer to 3-3.5MM. Cintron is a negative on this. If he hits his 75th percentiles, he will be useful to the team. That seems unlikely.
Finally, acquiring Bill Hall to play short may preclude the team from signing Rafael Furcal in the offseason. It seems like Furcal could be had for 3 years at 36MM or 4 years at 44MM. He is old for a shortstop, but still exhibits above average defense and an above average bat for the position. The projection system says he will be worth 4 wins above replacement level and be worth about 20MM. That seems about right. Good shortstops typically get paid slightly more than their performance would seem to dictate.
Bill Hall, bad defense and all, may be a decent pick up for the Orioles if he is available from the Brewers. If a Huff for Hall deal could be made, it should go down as quickly as possible from the Orioles end. If it is for some odds and ends buried in the Orioles system, then it probably is a worthwhile risk. Hall is at a low point and the only thing that could happen is his value rise. If he really is as horrendous as he has been this year, it will probably be a bad deal. It most likely would be better than acquiring Furcal though. Furcal will require a greater commitment in terms of years and money. This greater commitment to a player in the downswing of his career may be reasonable if the team were ready to compete in 2009, but that seems unlikely. A greater probability would be that as this team becomes competitive in 2011 or 2012, it will have to deal with an aging and somewhat unproductive ex-short stop.