Rich Hill was a late bloomer for the Cubs. The lefty with the Bugs Bunny curveball always had big strikeout rates in the minors, but started to get a handle on his control in '05 at age 25. That year he whiffed 194 against 35 walks in 130.6 innings across three levels. Hill's Triple A dominance continued the following year, when he struck out 135 and walked 21 in 100 innings. He was promoted to the bigs and showed promise in 16 starts, aside from some ill-advised comments in May. 2007 was Hill's breakout season - he made 32 starts and struck out 183 in 195 innings.
The wheels fell off in 2008, as Hill struggled in Spring Training and then opened the season with 15 walks in 19.6 innings across five starts. Hill's control problems seemed to be at least partially mental, and Lou Piniella didn't have much patience. He was demoted to Triple A in May, and the control issues persisted in the minors. Hill insisted his problems stemmed from a back injury and not Steve Blass Disease.
Like he did with Felix Pie, Cubs GM Jim Hendry gave up on Hill that winter and shipped him to Baltimore. The Cubs received cash considerations for Hill. He was out of options, so he needed to land with a team that could let him take his lumps in the Majors. Hill's control issues continued in his 13 starts, and elbow and shoulder injuries cut his season short. He had labrum surgery in August, and last night became a free agent after the Orioles outrighted him. The O's have interest in re-signing him to a minor league deal, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
If he doesn't re-sign with Baltimore, where might Hill land as he rehabs his shoulder and attempts to recapture the 2006-07 magic? San Diego is a nice low-pressure environment for pitchers. The Mariners had interest in Hill a year ago, and Seattle would be another smart landing spot. Hill was born in Boston, and Theo Epstein likes his reclamation projects, but getting out of the AL East might be a good thing. What kind of future do you see for Hill?