The 2015 Red Sox season is officially over and now Dave Dombrowski has the task of building a stronger team for 2016. Entering tomorrow, some teams will call to interview Torey Lovullo, Hanley Ramirez hopefully will start his offseason workout, but one of the most intriguing stories to follow will be Rich Hill‘s taste of free agency. As we all know, Hill signed a minor-league deal with the Red Sox on August 14th of this year and started his first Major League game in six years on September 13th. Since that moment, Hill was one of the key points of how the Red Sox turned their season around.
Since his first start of the season, Hills had more strikeouts than Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta, a better ERA (1.55) than Max Scherzer (1.63) and three 10-strikeout game, the most of any Red Sox starter of 2015. If he had pitched like this for the whole year, we would be looking at maybe one of the best comebacks in the history of sports but with only 29 innings pitched, it’s fair to doubt of Hill’s perfomance and call it a fluke.
Free agency will start five days after the World Series ends and several teams will go crazy trying to sign a reliable pitcher that can lead them to the playoffs. I’m sure that almost everyone learned from the Red Sox’s mistake of thinking that a rotation conformed of No. 3 starters would work, so pitchers will be the most desired players of free agency. But how does a pitcher like Hill with only 29 IP fits in?
“I can pitch for anybody, against anybody, anytime, anywhere. I feel very full of conviction,” Hill told WEEI’s Rob Bradford earlier this week. Hill has the right to be this confident about his situation, but we can’t forget that fluke seasons exist and are now more common than before. However, he feels different about it. “The four games I pitched aren’t four games you look at and say, ‘That was just dumb luck.’ “I faced the best hitters in the American, and doing it in the AL East is something that can’t be denied,” Hill told Bradford. Even though Hill doesn’t have a proven veteran status, he talks like one. However, he needs to prove himself one more time.
The Red Sox now have a different front office, but last season they gave Justin Masterson a one-year deal worth of $9.5 million. They did it after Masterson came out of his worst season, just hoping that he could be his 2013 version. If they did the same with him, why can’t they do it with Hill? The team obviosuly needs pitching in the rotation and bullpen. It’s easy to say that if a new starting pitcher doesn’t work out you can always put him in the bullpen, but most of the times that doesn’t end well. With Hill, the Red Sox have the opportunity of taking the risk and finding themselves in a win-win situation since he doesn’t even has to find a deal similar to Masterson’s.
Taking risks usually doesn’t end well for the Red Sox, but with Hill they can afford it. They need arms and Hill is providing one. 29 innings pitched is a small sample, but he can at least be similar to the way he was this past month.