Red Sox lefty Rich Hill indicated after yesterday’s start that he plans to continue pitching in 2023, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. Hill, a Boston native, indicated that his preference for his age-43 season next year is a return to the Red Sox, for whom he’s pitched to a 4.41 ERA across 118 1/3 innings this year. Hill suggested he would entertain the idea of signing only for half of the season, joining a club partway through the 2023 campaign, noting that he’d discuss specific plans with his family this winter.
With the Red Sox also set to lose right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha to free agency this offseason, it seems likely that the Red Sox would have interest in a reunion. With youngsters Josh Winckowski and Kutter Crawford struggling to ERAs over 5.00 during their stints in the rotation this season, and team ace Chris Sale having pitched just 48 1/3 innings since the end of the 2019 season, it would appear Nick Pivetta is the only steady presence in the Red Sox rotation entering 2023 at the moment.
That being said, top prospect Brayan Bello has also pitched solidly in 10 starts in the majors this year, so he is likely to compete for an opening day rotation spot as well. Garrett Whitlock has pitched well in 78 1/3 innings this season, but the Red Sox seem to prefer him in a swing role between the bullpen and the rotation; of his 31 games played this season, only nine of them were starts, and he pitched beyond the fourth inning just four times. James Paxton could pick up his player option for 2023, but after missing the entire 2022 season and pitching just 1 1/3 innings in 2021, he can hardly be counted on for significant innings next year.
Even if a reunion between Hill and the Red Sox doesn’t work out, Hill should find himself with plenty of suitors this offseason. While he has only pitched to an ERA+ of 96, 4% below league average, Hill’s 3.82 FIP this year indicates that he may have been somewhat unlucky to end up with the results he has this season. He has stranded just 67.9% of baserunners this season, a significant dip from his career norms, and his BABIP has risen to .310 this year, a clip much higher than his career mark of .279.
On the other hand, Hill has seen his strikeout rate decline this season, with his 20.4% strikeout rate failing to measure up to his career 24.5% mark, or even the 22.7% he achieved in 2021. Whether Hill can expect positive regression next year or not, his numbers suggest he can still provide steady, back of the rotation production. Furthermore, despite being the oldest pitcher in MLB, Hill has largely managed to stay healthy in recent years, with a one month stint on the injured list for a sprained knee this July being his only injury since the start of the 2021 season.