SUNDAY, 7:09pm: An official announcement from the Dodgers about a Hill agreement isn’t likely to happen tonight, Andy McCullough tweets.
SATURDAY, 6:48pm: The Dodgers and Hill are “closing in” on a contract, tweets Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. They’re unlikely to reach an agreement today, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, though he corroborates Plunkett’s report that a deal is forthcoming (Twitter link). The Dodgers aren’t facing much of any competition from Hill’s previously reported suitors – the Astros, Rangers or Yankees – according to FanRag’s Jon Heyman.
4:02pm: Another team who tried to negotiate a deal with free agent starter Rich Hill believes the lefty has a three-year contract worth $40MM or more in place with the Dodgers, Peter Gammons tweets. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tells a similar story, saying the Dodgers might already have a deal in place for Hill for three years and $46MM-$48MM. Cafardo, though, emphasizes the possibility that one of a number of East Coast teams could still sign him. No move has been confirmed by Hill or the Dodgers at this point, however.
The latest rumors about Hill had the Dodgers as one of four teams bidding for his services, along with the Yankees, Rangers and Astros. The Red Sox and Orioles were also believed to be interested. Hill, of course, is coming off an outstanding age-36 season with the Athletics and Dodgers during which he posted a 2.12 ERA, 10.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 110 1/3 innings, including a start in which he was pulled a perfect game after seven innings. His performance in 2016 landed him the No. 14 spot on MLBTR’s list of the top 50 free agents, making him one of the top starters available.
The downsides with Hill are his age and his lengthy injury history — even in his 2016 breakout campaign, he dealt with blister problems and a groin injury. As Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times points out via Twitter, though, the Dodgers’ depth puts them in position to take advantage of Hill’s upside while minimizing their risk if he’s not available to pitch. Particularly given Hill’s vanishingly low 2016 home run rate of 0.33 per nine innings, there’s reason to be somewhat skeptical of his ability to repeat his incredible performance last season. He could regress a fair amount in the next couple years and still be a vital contributor, however, and if he does return to the Dodgers, he should provide their rotation with a healthy boost if he’s able to stay healthy.
For Hill, a $40MM-plus contract would represent an enormous financial windfall — he has spent most of his career as a journeyman and has never had a long-term deal. He’s also never made more in a season than the $6MM he made last year.
The Dodgers are currently dealing with debt issues, but those issues seem unlikely to prevent them from pursuing a free agent of Hill’s stature, and the team has not been required to reduce its payroll. In addition to Hill, the team has also been fleetingly linked to other potentially expensive or relatively expensive players like Aroldis Chapman and Andrew McCutchen.