Veteran left-hander Rich Hill heads back to the open market in a few weeks. Despite a rough second half, he’d at least find minor league offers as he looks to extend his MLB career to a 20th year.
Hill might not sign over the winter, however. While he’d previously expressed an intent to play in 2024, the 43-year-old (44 in March) now tells Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune he’s giving some thought to waiting until midway through the campaign before joining a new team.
It’s an atypical tack but one Hill has considered before. Last August, he told Rob Bradford of WEEI he was thinking about something similar for the 2023 season. The southpaw didn’t ultimately pursue it — he signed an $8MM deal with the Pirates just after Christmas — but that possibility is back on the table this winter.
There are a few reasons behind Hill’s decision-making. The most straightforward one is health. MLB’s oldest active player, Hill conceded to Acee he has “a pretty good gauge and a monitor on my body” and considers “half a season … much more palatable than a full season.” Hill also pointed to a desire to spend more time with his family, noting that he’d like to watch his 12-year-old son play during his final year of Little League baseball next spring. By waiting until midseason, he’d also have a chance to survey the competitive landscape and look to land a spot with a playoff contender.
Hill’s performance also suggests he could be better suited for a lighter role. His production dipped in the second half, especially after a deadline trade from Pittsburgh to San Diego. Hill carried a 4.76 ERA through 22 starts with the Bucs, reasonable production for a fifth or sixth starter. He was tagged for 8.23 earned runs per nine during his two months in Southern California, serving up eight homers in only 27 1/3 frames of work.
The Padres knocked Hill out of the rotation after five starts. They placed him on waivers in an unsuccessful attempt to shed the last few weeks of his salary. He remained in their bullpen after going unclaimed, working mostly low-leverage relief. Hill found more success in a very limited look in that capacity, turning in a 2.25 ERA with an above-average 26.5% strikeout rate in his final four appearances.
Despite the solid last few games, Hill’s subpar results early in his time with San Diego contributed to a lackluster 5.41 ERA through 146 1/3 frames. That’s more than a run higher than last season’s 4.27 figure and his highest mark since his remarkable late-career resurgence with the 2015 Red Sox.