Red Sox Should Make Rich Hill A Trade Target

May 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Rich Hill (18) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Rich Hill (18) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox may need to trade for stable starting pitching for the playoffs. Boy, they must now regret letting Rich Hill go to the Oakland Athletics.

In a recent article, famous baseball writer Peter Gammons claimed that “one mistake the Red Sox made last winter was to ignore Rich Hill’s desire to come back to Boston with an opportunity to start […] The A’s signed him for $6.5M—more than he’d been paid over the course of nine seasons.” With the way that the Red Sox starters have performed,  would any member of Red Sox Nation disagree with Gammons’ assessment? If there is anyone like that out there, they may need their vision checked.

In terms of lefty starters for Boston, it hasn’t been the glorious beginning that some of the other members of the team have had, so far. Let’s begin with the big fish, himself: David Price. He was the big free-agent catch of the offseason, but he has floundered at times, allowing five home runs and a .260 opposing batting average that swelled his current ERA to 5.53.

Then, there was the expectation that lefty youths would also impact the club more than Hill was supposedly able to do. Now, Eduardo Rodriguez has suffered yet another setback while trying to rehabilitate an injury suffered in spring training, while Henry Owens was belted by opposing sluggers out of the majors with an express tag back to the minors to find his game there, instead.

There are a couple more lefties in the Red Sox minor league system, with Roenis Elias and Williams Jerez on quests of their own to reach the majors. And don’t expect Brian Johnson to show up any time soon, as he’s recently been put on the shelf until he comes to grips with his anxiety issues.

Combine all of that with the woes of the once-dominant Clay Buchholz and you have the makings of a deep desire for what you once had in Hill.

Gammons went on to add that “since being thrust into the Red Sox rotation in September, Hill has made 13 starts, thrown 78 2/3 innings, allowed 49 hits, struck out 95, posted a 2.54 ERA, has the highest swing-and-miss rate in baseball, and appears headed to the All Star Game.” With numbers like that, and the fact that with Hill’s “relationship with [Red Sox director of pitching analysis and development] Brian Bannister, who encouraged Hill to go back on top and throw more than 50% curveballs,” is it any wonder why Boston would want Hill back?

Yes, Hill is 36. Yes, he will be a free agent at the end of the season. He’s being paid $6 million for this season, with the hopes for an even bigger payday in the future. Yet, can the Red Sox afford not to take a risk on him? The Athletics are struggling and look to be sellers by the time the mid-summer trade deadline will roll around; however, Boston may not be able to afford to wait that long.

The Red Sox are battling it out with the Baltimore Orioles for the top spot in the American League East division. One can’t help but notice that the tug-of-war with the lead would have been clearly in favour of the Red Sox, who have the most runs scored of any team in the majors, if their starting pitching was better. At present, their fifth starter Steven Wright has the lowest ERA on the team. The Red Sox are losing games that they could have won, building a lead past the Orioles in the division, which makes a trade for Hill all the more pressing.

The Red Sox have everything in their favour to make the trade happen: a former teammate as the target, the other team could be ready to trade him at any moment for a decent deal, a gaping hole to put said trade target in once acquired, and a former desire from said trade target to have stayed with the team. Now, the issue becomes whether that former desire has turned to scorn, with a new desire to leave Boston in the next offseason, if such a trade were to happen.

But, that’s this winter. This is now. This is a chance to win a championship with this current team. If the Athletics don’t ask for too much in return, how can Boston say no to Hill? If the price is right, how can the Red Sox say no to Hill’s free-agent contract this winter? Then again, how could the Red Sox say no to him last winter?