Perry Hill, an infield coach held in extraordinarily high regard within the sport, is under contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 2010 after they exercised a contractual option -- but unless something changes, it appears that he will not work at all next season.
Hill went to the Pirates from the Florida Marlins after the 2008 season, and with Hill hitting fungoes and working with infielders, the Pirates' defense improved markedly and remained strong even after shortstop Jack Wilson was traded to the Mariners.
Pirates manager John Russell told MLB.com in the season's final weekend: "I knew the kind of impact [Hill] could make. You saw the pride he had and how he handled it, and the passion he had in coaching. And he's continued that all year long. He's been phenomenal. He has made a tremendous impact. He's been a huge part of why our infield and our defense has gotten better."
The Pirates held a contractual option for 2010 and wanted to keep Hill, and knowing that there was outside interest from other teams, the Pirates exercised the option -- while offering to restructure and extend Hill's contract.
But Hill was intent on leaving the Pirates' organization and has informed the team that he is "going home." Other teams are, of course, prohibited from hiring Hill, unless they were to work out a deal with the Pirates.
The news of the Pirates' decision was first reported in Pittsburgh papers last weekend.
Buster Olney is a senior baseball writer for ESPN The Magazine.