12:10pm: Chris Cotillo of MassLive reports that the Angels and Rangers have also shown interest in Hill this off-season. Texas has been active in the starting pitcher market already, landing Jacob deGrom on a five-year, $185MM deal, Andrew Heaney on a two-year, $25MM deal, bringing back Martin Perez via the qualifying offer and trading for Jake Odorizzi. With that quartet joining Jon Gray, there’s not an obvious rotation fit for Hill there, but it’s entirely possible their interest in the veteran came prior to their free agent signings.
The Angels have added Tyler Anderson on a three-year, $39MM deal to a rotation led by Shohei Ohtani. Left-handers Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers and Jose Suarez round out a typical five-man rotation, and all three have shown plenty of promise. Yet the Angels have tended to go with a six-man rotation to manage Ohtani’s workload, and while they’ve said they’ll be a bit more aggressive with Ohtani’s workload in 2023, adding a veteran arm certainly makes sense for the Halos.
8:34am: The Orioles are showing interest in free agent starter Rich Hill, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI. The team has already signed right-hander Kyle Gibson to a one-year, $10MM deal this off-season, but has long been rumored to be in the market for multiple veteran starters to bolster their rotation.
Hill, 42, played out last season on a one-year, $5MM (with $3MM more in incentives available) deal with the Red Sox – the seventh contract the Massachusetts local had signed with the team. The left-hander made 26 starts, tossing 124 1/3 innings of 4.27 ERA ball. He did miss some time with a left knee strain, but on the whole kept his strikeout and walk rates in line with a year earlier (below average strikeout rate, above average walk rate). A year prior, Hill threw 154 1/3 innings of 3.86 ERA ball between time with the Rays and Mets, so while there’s a natural durability risk with a 42-year-old pitcher, Hill has made 57 starts over the past two seasons.
The veteran’s career has been something of a journey, spanning 18 years and 11 different teams. He originally debuted with the Cubs back in 2005, and spent the next ten seasons moving around the big leagues a bit, initially working as a starter before moving to the bullpen. A four-start, 1.55 ERA stint with the Red Sox in late in 2015 propelled a late-career resurgence for Hill, and he turned that into a one-year deal to pitch out of Oakland’s rotation.
Hill would turn in 14 starts of 2.25 ERA ball for the A’s in 2016, striking out batters at a 28.9% clip. He’d continue his front-of-the-rotation form even after a trade to the Dodgers, working to a 1.83 ERA over six starts down the stretch in LA. With a strong full season of work under his belt, LA opted to bring Hill back on a three-year, $48MM deal starting in 2017. It’d prove a wise move, as Hill would wind up making 68 starts of 3.16 ERA during his time with the Dodgers.
Things have dropped off a little in recent years for Hill, with his strikeout rate down almost 10% from 2019. Nonetheless, he still remains a solid back-of-the-rotation veteran arm. That holds plenty of appeal for the Orioles, who came into the off-season looking for rotation help. Jordan Lyles was the only pitcher to top 23 starts in 2022, but was bought out of an $11MM option and is a free agent.
As things stand, the Orioles’ rotation currently projects to include Kyle Gibson, Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells and top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez. Outside of Gibson, Wells’ two years of service time makes him the most senior in that group, while Rodriguez – as good as he projects to be – is yet to pitch in the big leagues, so the addition of a veteran arm certainly makes sense.
Baltimore is one of the 11 teams Hill has appeared for in the past, making 13 starts for the team back in 2009. That particular stint didn’t go so well, as Hill worked to a 7.80 ERA across 57 2/3 innings and wouldn’t make another big league start until turning his career around in Boston in 2015.
Hill was earlier linked to a return to Boston this winter, as he described a “mutual interest” between the two sides in working on an eighth contract there. This interest from Baltimore presents as Hill’s first reported alternative this winter.