There are four teams heavily pursuing free-agent lefty Rich Hill, according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. The Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, and Astros are all said to be chasing down a pitcher who is arguably the best available on this year’s market. Also joining pursuit are the Red Sox and Orioles, per the report, though it seems their interest is less robust.
We’ve heard plenty of chatter about the possibility of the Yankees making a move on Hill, and the Dodgers likewise have long been said to have interest in a reunion. The AL West-rival Rangers and Astros, though, have not been tied as closely — in part, perhaps, since both have already signed starters — though MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes listed both as plausible suitors in his top-fifty free agent list. Meanwhile, the two AL East teams mentioned seemingly have fully stocked rotations, though surely both could stand to upgrade in the right situation.
Hill is coming off of an outstanding age-36 season. While he was limited to 110 1/3 innings, owing to a blister, the veteran southpaw recorded a sensational 2.12 ERA with 10.5 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. While there was justifiable skepticism last winter, following Hill’s four excellent, late-season starts in the prior campaign, he now seems worth pursuing as a possible top-of-the-rotation arm.
There’s plenty of reason to tamper contract expectations, of course. Even if one accepts that Hill can continue to mow down opposing hitters, he’s not young and comes with a long history of injuries. And it’s certainly possible that he’s in line for some regression in the earned-run department after limiting opposing hitters to just 0.33 home runs per nine innings a season ago.
Though he essentially uses just two pitches, Hill has baffled the opposition with a heater that barely averages 90 mph and a breaking ball that he can manipulate at will. And the recent results aren’t just a batted-ball-fortune fluke; he was credited with a 2.39 FIP, 3.36 xFIP, and 3.29 SIERA in 2016. With no other true impact starters available on the open market, and despite the obvious questions, MLBTR predicts that he’ll command a $50MM guarantee over three seasons.