Free agent pitcher Rich Hill could provide the Boston Red Sox with an affordable solution for their hole in the starting rotation.
The Boston Red Sox are operating on a tight budget but that doesn’t mean they’ll completely ignore free agency. They still have roster spots to fill, including one glaring hole in the starting rotation.
The expected departure of Rick Porcello will leave the Red Sox in need of a replacement. Despite coming off a miserable season, the right-hander should still expect to receive offers that are out of the price range of a team adamant about slashing payroll. Boston’s search for a cheaper solution may lead them to a reunion with Rich Hill.
MLB Trade Rumors ranks Hill 46th on their list of the top free agents. They predict that he’ll stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a one-year, $6 million deal but the Red Sox are mentioned as a potential alternative.
Hill is a Boston native who had a few brief stints as a reliever with the Red Sox from 2010-2012. He bounced around to a few teams while mostly toiling away in the minors before reinventing himself as a starting pitcher. He impressed in a four-game sample with the Red Sox at the tail end of the 2015 season, earning himself a contract in free agency that Boston passed on matching.
Injuries have hindered the lefty throughout his career but Hill has been excellent when he’s been on the mound over the last few years. He went 39-19 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 over the last four seasons split between Oakland and Los Angeles.
Hill made only 13 starts in 2019, missing significant time with a strained forearm. His innings were monitored when returned in late September but he proved he was healthy and made one abbreviated postseason start.
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It’s a small sample since Hill fell shy of tossing 60 innings this year but his 2.45 ERA ranked fourth in the majors among starting pitchers who logged at least that many innings. He produced a strong strikeout rate with an 11.05 K/9 and limited walks fairly well with a respectable 2.76 BB/9.
The one performance-related concern was the long ball. Hill allowed 10 home runs in only 58 2/3 innings for a career-high 1.53 HR/9. Only eight qualified major league starters had a higher home run rate. It could be an outlier due to the limited sample and Hill’s career 1.1 HR/9 rate is more reasonable. Plus, most pitchers gave up more homers in the year of the juiced ball. Still, a rising home run could be a concern if he were to move from pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium to the AL East.
Hill will turn 40 years old before next season. His age and injury history will probably limit him to one-year offers at a modest price, making him an ideal target for the Red Sox. There’s plenty of risk with his injury history, which could make a Boston team dealing with lingering health issues for their top starters shy about pursuing Hill.
Beggars can’t be choosers though. Boston will be shopping in the discount bin and they’ll be hard-pressed to find a starting pitcher with the potential to be as much of a bargain as Hill is capable of being.