If there’s one thing that Boston fans gush over, it’s their hometown heroes returning to play in front of their home crowd. And Rich Hill, Milton, Massachusetts native sits on the free-agent market waiting to be offered a contract for his age 40 season.
There’s a problem, though. Hill is coming off of Primary Revision surgery on his throwing elbow according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford and he isn’t expected to make his return until June.
There’s been plenty of speculation as to whether or not Hill could be coming back home to play for the Red Sox as they continue in their search for talent with upside that they could sign on a short-term basis with a contract that is more than affordable. When you’re dealing with a pitcher who’s about to hit that 40-year-old milestone who is simultaneously attempting to make a return after elbow surgery, Hill appears to fit the bill quite nicely.
Now, obviously there’s a lot hanging in the balance here with the Red Sox as they reportedly look to deal away one of their more pricey assets in lefty David Price. Assuming that Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox do find a trade partner to help facilitate this type of transaction, they’ll then need to fill that fifth spot in the rotation. This is where you’d slide in Hill come June.
With Winter Meetings being last week in San Diego, the team reportedly already had discussed a Price deal with at least five different ballclubs, making this scenario of his departure feel that much more likely.
Once one of the heroes of the 2018 postseason run is dealt, the rotation won’t be anything that would strike fear into any opposing lineup’s hearts.
You’d have Chris Sale who’s looking to essentially make a slight comeback of his own after making an early exit in August due to an elbow injury. Eduardo Rodriguez who’s 2019 season shaped up to be his own coming-out party. Nathan Eovaldi who missed significant time due to injury in the first half of the season. And then the newly acquired Martin Pérez who has something to prove on his own.
There are a lot of question marks that already sit inside of the current Red Sox rotation, so would bringing Rich Hill, who is an immense unknown, be worth it?
Hill, who’s already engaged in discussion with the Red Sox about a return home, has been nothing but reliable when he steps on top of the mound and turned out to be a great reward for the Dodgers after they signed him ahead of the 2017 season.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 11, 2018
After being traded from Oakland to Los Angeles in the middle of the 2016 season, Hill proved to the Dodgers organization that he would be worth a contract.
His total ERA in 2016 between the two clubs sat at 2.12 in 20 starts which landed him a three-year deal to stay put in LA. From there he continued to remain consistent with a 3.32 ERA in 2017, a 3.66 ERA in 2018, and in just his 13 starts in 2019, he kept his ERA down to 2.45.
In total over his prior three seasons, Hill’s ERA finished at 3.30, his FIP at 3.89, his K/9 at 10.89 and his WHIP at 1.11. Some would say this is good. I’m one of those people.
And according to Andy McCullough of The Athletic, Hill’s ERA of 3.00 over these most recent four seasons is ranked sixth of 115 pitchers who have pitched 400 innings in that same timespan. The only Major League arms who were better? Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber.
In 2019, Hill’s injury-riddled season, he faced a forearm strain along with a knee injury and over these three years with Los Angeles, he did miss time in each of them.
The pros of the Red Sox signing Hill? As previously indicated, it would assumedly fit the bill of what the Red Sox are looking to do payroll wise in 2020.
They’ve made it abundantly clear that they are looking to stay below the $208 million luxury tax threshold and that idea was only reinforced over the Winter Meetings with their clear high-risk, high-reward signings of LHP Martin Pérez along with infielder José Peraza. Both who are on cheap, one-year deals–Pérez though with a 2021 club option.
Hill too, as previously indicated, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy. He resurrected his career when he showed flashes of ability and remaining talent when he started four games for the Red Sox in 2015 where he allowed just 5 ER in 29 IP in four starts. And then the following season is where his second wind really picked up steam in Oakland/Los Angeles.
But the cons? If (when) the Red Sox do deal David Price and eat whatever amount of money that they’ll inevitably have to eat, the team will need an immediate fix to fill that fifth spot in the rotation and again, Hill won’t be making his return until at least June.
The question of whether or not Hill will still be a top arm after his surgery and rehab really isn’t apart of the equation. The high-risk, high-reward mantra that we’re seeing from Bloom and his team is the label we should slap onto Hill. The 2020 season will be a lot of risk and Hill has a high, high ceiling that could make the Red Sox frugal moves more pleasing to the palate if they are able to have someone on staff who sees success at a cheap salary.
If the Red Sox truly do want to remain competitive, especially in a division that includes the New York Yankees who only look to be gaining strength by the day, the signing of Rich Hill could be a major aid in that cause. We know that he can be a successful pitcher when healthy and in knowing that he’s going to turn 40 in March while coming off of elbow surgery, the assumption is there that his deal wouldn’t be anything lengthy or high in price.
If the Red Sox can swing Rich Hill and bring him back to the state where he actually still lives, it could be a move that pays off in the long run of the 2020 season.
Also found in Andrew McCullough’s piece in The Athletic, Hill had this to say about Los Angeles and Boston: “If it’s back in LA, that would be great,” Hill said. “I would obviously love to go back to LA. And home is Boston. Both of those places might not work out. But there’s a whole bunch of other teams that are going to be contenders in 2020 that are interested.”
Would it be worth it? Honestly, who knows. But with the current approach that the team’s taking towards its construction of the roster, it sure makes a whole hell of a lot of sense. High-risk, high-reward is the definition of Rich Hill’s age 40 season.
And we both know Boston’s fans will become entranced with the storyline of the hometown kid’s return. Who knows, maybe it could even serve as a slight distraction come June if the team doesn’t exactly get off to a desirable start.