Rich Hill is currently amidst his 18th big league season, with the long-tenured southpaw set to reach his 43rd birthday before next Opening Day. Among active players, only Albert Pujols — who has already announced 2022 as his final season — is older than the Red Sox’s hurler. Hill, however, tells Rob Bradford of WEEI he feels physically able to continue his playing career beyond this year. He nevertheless also expressed a desire to spend more time with his wife and son, pointing to the amount of time players spend away from their families over the course of a 162-game schedule.
With that in mind, Hill tells Bradford he could consider an atypical approach to next season — sitting out the first few months with an eye towards joining a contender midseason. Hill, who will be a free agent again at the end of this year, suggested he could stay in shape and continue to throw independently for the first few months of next season before pursuing an opportunity with a club around July. “If we look at the trade deadline, even for this year, everybody needs more pitching,” the pitcher noted. “Whether that be out of the bullpen and/or starting, it’s that opportunity to be able to help a team that’s going to be able to go into the postseason and make some things happen, especially with the experience I have in the postseason.”
To be clear, Hill didn’t definitively state he was committed to the half-season approach. He expressed confidence in his ability to hold up physically if he went the traditional route and signed with a team over the offseason and played a full schedule. It seems he’ll wait until the offseason for he and his family to officially settle upon their plans, but Hill pointed to some benefits that could be associated with a hypothetical half-season approach. Waiting until midseason would give him and his representatives at ACES a clearer picture of the standings to target a playoff contender. He also indicated a preemptive rest period could have performance benefits for the stretch run.
“You’ll be 43, but there’s obviously some more to give inside, where you can take those extra couple months to rejuvenate and put the work in and the time in the gym. It could be beneficial for that second half,” he opined. “You’re trying to come back and be as productive and fresh as possible. … I’m not saying I wouldn’t be for an entire season. It just might not be ideal for my family. (It might be better) to spend half the year with my son and my wife, where we can enjoy each other, and start to move in that direction.”
Hill, who has suited up for a whopping 11 teams in his big league career, signed a $5MM guarantee to return for a third MLB stint with the Red Sox last December. He lost most of July to a left knee sprain but has been a useful back-of-the-rotation contributor when healthy. Hill has given the Sox 82 2/3 innings of 4.68 ERA ball. While his 18% strikeout rate and 8.4% swinging strike percentage are each below-average, he remains a capable strike-thrower and has held left-handed opponents to a meager .220/.278/.320 line in 54 plate appearances on the year.
Between that production and Hill’s wealth of major league experience, he should still find interest from teams during the upcoming offseason. Whether he elects to pursue a job during the winter or holds off until the middle of next season remains to be seen, but his comments to Bradford indicate he’s eyeing a 19th MLB campaign in some capacity.