Boston Red Sox should sign Rich Hill back for 2017
Former Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rich Hill may be throwing for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, but he will be a free agent this offseason.
The 36-year-old Boston native, who graduated from Milton High School, has had a long journey in his baseball career to get to this point. If the Dodgers force a Game 7 in the National League Championship Series, Hill will get the nod to start the matchup against the Chicago Cubs. An incredible honor, considering the road that Hill had to take to get that opportunity.
From going to the University of Michigan, to being drafted by the Cubs in 2002, to playing for nine MLB teams in a span of 11 seasons, not to mention that time spent with the Long Island Ducks of the Independent League, Hill must feel that he is now vindicated for sticking it out for this long. Many other pitchers would have given up in despair, never catching on with one team and having their full support.
In fact, more than those nine clubs had purchased Hill’s contract only to release him within the same year. As far as personal income goes, Hill made just over $3 million between 2007 and 2015, in terms of MLB salary. That total averages to about $300 thousand a year for 10 years; a good amount to keep him from starving, but by no means was it setting him up for a secured future. Between having to move all over the United States, often multiple times in a calendar year, as well as the hefty expenses associated with that type of life, the money that Hill made would have left his wallet as fast as it entered.
Finally, job security may be on the way.
After the Oakland Athletics traded Hill and Josh Reddick to L.A., both players have become fixtures for the Dodger movement to this postseason. The Dodgers liked Hill’s performance with the Athletics, starting 14 games and posting a 9-3 record with a 2.25 ERA, despite his own injuries and the lacklustre hitting by the Oakland lineup. In six starts for the Dodgers, Hill went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA, striking out 39 batters in 34.1 innings.
The quality starts continued in this playoff run. While the Washington Nationals did get to him in the NLDS, allowing five runs in two starts, Hill also struck out 13 batters in seven innings. The biggest start came in the NLCS, when Hill blanked the Cubs in six innings, allowing only two hits, two walks, and six strikeouts.
Blister on his hand or not, Hill blistered through the competition so far this season, begging the question of when a team will ultimately sign him to a multi-year contract worth some big money for a change.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com points out that baseball reporter Jon Heyman believes that “Hill could sign a three-year, $50-million contract this offseason. That’s $16.67 million per year.” Smith continued by stating, “That’s a hefty contract for a pitcher who will turn 37 on March 11. But he likely will receive a contract in that vicinity. After all, he’ll arguably be the best starter on a rather weak free agent starting pitching market this coming offseason.”
Smith argues that Hill’s curveball is the reason for stabilizing his recent success: “It’s a nasty pitch that was effective in both the AL and NL this year.” According to FanGraphs.com, Hill uses that pitch 42% of the time, second only to his fastball. That usage is because he’s learned to use it as his strikeout pitch, coming in more like a hard slider and fooling the batters. His lefty arm has made lefty bats hit .216 while righty bats have suffered worse, averaging a mere .187. Hill’s lefty delivery allows that curve to look more like a slider as it comes inside to right-handed batters, who are not sure whether they should swing or not.
Even when they do swing, they can’t tell whether to swing quickly or to look for the dip in Hill’s curve.
If the Red Sox were to sign Hill as a free agent, it wouldn’t be the first time. The Red Sox signed him multiple times between 2010 and 2012, thinking that Hill could be their man only to lose faith in him. The same happened in 2015, as the Red Sox had him start four games in which he went 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA. He allowed a combined five runs on 14 hits, five walks, and 36 strikeouts in 29 innings of work. Yet, even in the turmoil that was the Red Sox starting rotation last season, Boston still granted Hill free agency and he signed with another team, instead of rewarding him for a job well done.
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Maybe it was his age that kept the Red Sox away from re-signing Hill. Maybe it was that the Red Sox wanted to keep as much money as they could so that they could offer it to David Price in the last offseason. One thing is for sure: Hill’s recent performances have put all MLB teams on notice. Hill could very well sign a big contract; however, as so many other teams like the Red Sox lost faith in Hill very quickly over the years, what makes them think that Hill will want to sign with them?
Right now, the Dodgers are giving him $6 million and a chance to send them to the World Series. Money’s great, but sometimes a man needs some love and loyalty too.