Unable to date to obtain a pitching upgrade -- or unwilling to meet the price -- the Red Sox Thursday focused on a less obvious need: acquiring a right-handed hitting infielder, in the person of Aaron Hill, from the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Sox sent two minor leaguers -- pitcher Aaron Wilkerson and infielder Wendell Rijo to the Brewers in return for the 34-year-old Hill, who can play both second and third base. Hill may conceivably be platooned at third with Travis Shaw.
Hill is on the final year of a multi-year deal that pays him $12 million, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, with whom he signed the original contract with in 2011, are responsible for $6.5 million. The Sox will get money in the deal to defray part of the contract.
In 78 games with the Brewers, Hill had compiled a slash line of .283/.359/.421 with eight homers and 29 RBI.
"We've been looking for a right-handed hitting infielder that can play third base for, really, a while,'' said Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations.
"We've been a little vulnerable to lefthanded pitching. We felt it would strengthen us.''
Hill has essentially been an everyday player for the Brewers -- and for much of his career -- and playing time with the Red Sox may be tougher to come by, barring a major injury. Nonetheless, Dombrowski felt that Hill was excited to be joining a contender.
"He's capable of playing every day,'' said Dombrowski. "But we look for him more to complement the players that we have. He'll get some playing time at third and he can also go over to second and give (Dustin Pedroia) some rest if he needs to.
"(I told Hill) 'We think we have a good club; we're in a position to win this thing and we think you help us, make us better.' "
Shaw is second on the team in doubles and has 48 RBI, but has struggled against lefties, with a slash line of .211/.240/.380. Only two of his nine homers have come against lefties and just six of his 26 doubles.
"How John decides to (handle a potential platoon at third), I'll leave that up to him,'' said Dombrowski. "I always leave that up to the manager. But I do think (Hill) does give us the possibility of having another strong righthanded bat.''
Dombrowski said the deal had been in the works for a while and wasn't prompted by the injury scare Wednesday night when Shaw fouled a ball off his left foot and had to come out of the game. X-Rays later were negative.
Wilkerson came out of independent ball two years ago and has performed well at Triple A, enough to earn some consideration for a spot start last week. But Dombrowski made it clear that the Sox hadn’t been expecting Wilkerson to be one of the solution to their starting rotation issues.
"I don't think we could count on Aaron being a guy -- as much I we like his abilities -- I don't think we could count on him to step forward,'' Dombrowski said, "with the situation of never pitching in the big league and being a real strong consideration for us going forward to be a key factor in the pennant race.''
Rijo, meanwhile, was a talented infielder who hadn't yet figured things out offensively, hitting .250 in four minor league seasons. Rijo was ranked the Red Sox 15th best prospect after the 2015 season.
To make room for Hill on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox designated outfielder Ryan LaMarre for assignment.