Hall's Phoenix-based agent, Terry Bross, confirmed that Hall would rather be traded than platooned, and said Hall's unhappiness had roots in January, when the Brewers acquired veteran center fielder Mike Cameron, and for the third time in as many years, moved Hall to a new position.
Hall accepted the move to third, but has spoken up since the Brewers cut his playing time. He was hitting .158 against right-handed pitching when the team promoted lefty-swinging Russell Branyan from Triple-A Nashville and began platooning Branyan and Hall at third base. Hall started Monday night against Arizona left-hander Doug Davis and again Tuesday against lefty Randy Johnson, but, though manager Ned Yost insists it is not a strict platoon, Hall has not started a game against a right-hander since Branyan arrived.
"If this is what the situation is going to be, then he wants to be traded," Bross said.
Hall's stance came as news to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who had a conversation with Hall about the platoon 10 days ago in Washington, D.C., and spoke with Bross on Monday.
What is Melvin's response to a player who wants out?
"I have to do what's best for the ballclub at this point," Melvin said. "Right now, Billy has a role on this club and he plays hard. My interest is the big picture and the ballclub. If there is a way to improve the ballclub and it involves Billy or any other player, I will do that. But if it doesn't help the ballclub, I'm not motivated to do anything.
"It's probably tougher to move guys once they want to go."
Hall, who was drafted by the Brewers in 1998 and is the organization's longest-tenured player, has not formally requested a trade, and has "not demanded anything," according to Bross. Only players who have already been traded in the middle of multiyear contracts have the power to force deals.
But the intentions are clear. Unless the Brewers restore Hall as the everyday third baseman, he wants to move elsewhere.
"He is feeling essentially that, 'I've changed positions every year for the organization. I'm thankful for the contract that I have, I'm thankful for the opportunity that the organization has given me, and I'm a Brewer until I'm not a Brewer,'" Bross said. "But he also feels that, 'If it's going to be like this every year, if the team is going to keep changing my position every year, if I'm going to keep changing my career path, and then the first time I struggle I get sat on the bench, maybe it's time for the team to improve itself and let me go somewhere to try to improve my situation as well.'"
Hall's contract could further complicate matters. He is in the second season of a four-year, $24 million contract he signed in February 2007, a deal that made Hall the highest-paid position player in club history. Roughly $18.4 million remains to be paid, plus either a $9.25 million club option for 2009 or a $500,000 buyout.
Some might view a big contract as an impediment to a trade. Bross billed it as a positive, citing the cost certainty Hall provides versus a player going year-to-year in arbitration. Hall's defensive versatility should also be enticing to teams.
"There are certain teams in the league that are not going to pick the contract up because it's not within their means and does not fit what they are trying to accomplish," Bross said. "But there are plenty of other clubs out there. He has a very nice contract for a very good player that's a 30-home run guy. He was on pace to hit 30 and drive in 100 this year before he got platooned, and there are not a lot of 30-home run, 100-RBI third basemen out there, let alone shortstops."
Hall was the team MVP in 2006, when he hit 35 home runs and drove in 85 runs as a fill-in for injured shortstop J.J. Hardy. He hit .254 as the center fielder in 2007 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs, missing several weeks with an ankle injury, and entered Tuesday's game batting .227 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs in 2008. Hall was tied with Prince Fielder for the second-best homer total on the team and ranked fourth in RBIs.
He was hitting .162 with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 136 at-bats against right-handers and .408 with three homers and seven RBIs in 49 at-bats against lefties.
Hall was met with a smattering of boos before his first at-bat on Tuesday, and the boos grew a bit louder after he struck out. Hours earlier, Yost did his best to brush off the topic.
"I understand his frustration," Yost said. "But this is a game of production."
Like Hall, Yost does not intend to let the situation become a clubhouse distraction.
"That will not be allowed to happen," Yost said.
In the meantime, Hall will continue to play the waiting game.
"It's not going to be a problem," Bross said. "He's unhappy because when he shows up at the stadium he expects to go out and compete. It's very, very, very difficult to sit and watch when you know you can go out and help the team win and you're not getting the opportunity on a nightly basis. That is the hard part for Bill. It's not that he doesn't want to be a Brewer, it's that he wants to go out and compete on a nightly basis."