Athletics lefty Rich Hill will not make his scheduled start on Sunday, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). That means he won’t have a chance to prove to potential trade suitors that he’s at full health; to the contrary, it seems, he isn’t quite ready to return to the bump with a blister on his finger still causing problem.
It’s certainly still possible that Hill could be traded on or before Monday’s deadline, but it’ll take some creativity. Teams will surely be willing to roll the dice on his reasonably-priced contract, so an August trade could be tough since he’d likely be claimed off waivers. To get things done before then, Oakland may need to take a reduced return or try to work out some sort of conditional arrangement in which the final price depends upon how many starts Hill is ultimately able to make.
A’s GM David Forst has suggested previously that the club’s improved performance won’t really change its deadline stance, as Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com reports. He also suggested that Hill’s injury wasn’t of the kind that would make a deal difficult to pull off without a pre-deadline start. In his comments today, Forst said there has been lots of interest and reiterated that a trade is still possible, as Slusser reports (links to Twitter). He declined to guess at the odds, though, and suggested the team could hold onto the surprising 36-year-old. A qualifying offer still seems a possibility; indeed, if Hill is kept and returns to the form he has shown since his re-emergence late last season, it might be an easy offer to make.
Though Hill’s last full appearance came on July 7th, he has been able to keep his arm in shape while protecting the blister — even if he hasn’t been able to utilize all his pitches. And he was able to build up to sixty long-toss throws today before the area in question felt “hot,” Slusser tweets, which is apparently just part of the process of building up a callus. A DL stint seems likely at this point, particularly since it can be backdated. Teams will presumably be able to assess the situation and adjust their offers accordingly, but there’s no question that the lack of immediate availability and increased risk will weigh in the balance — particularly since Hill is such an unusual, late-emerging pitcher to begin with.