The Dodgers’ season came to a bitterly disappointing conclusion Wednesday, but left-hander Rich Hill hopes it wasn’t the last time he dons their uniform. The pending free agent said after the club’s NLDS-ending loss to the Nationals that he wants to remain a Dodger in 2020, Andy McCullough of The Athletic tweets.
Hill’s weeks away from another trip to the open market, where he cashed in with the Dodgers entering the 2017 campaign. The late-career breakout hurler, whom the Dodgers acquired from the Athletics the previous summer, re-signed with Los Angeles on a three-year, $48MM contract. When Hill was healthy enough to take the mound, he lived up to that payday, evidenced by a 3.30 ERA/3.89 FIP with 10.68 K/9 against 2.97 BB/9. The problem is that injuries have consistently haunted Hill, who tossed just 327 regular-season innings over the life of his deal. He only amassed 58 2/3 in 2019, during which he totaled a mere 8 1/3 (including 2 2/3 in the playoffs) from June 20 onward.
Not only has a lack of durability hampered Hill, but as someone who’s set to turn 40 in March, he’s going into free agency as one of the oldest players available. However, even though free agency has been unkind to many aging players in the past couple offseasons, it shouldn’t preclude Hill from securing another guaranteed contract. After all, he’s still a bear to deal with for opposing offenses when he takes the mound, as he showed this year with a 2.45 ERA/4.10 FIP, 11.05 K/9 and 2.76 BB/9 and a 49.6 percent groundball rate.
While Hill’s plenty useful even in an injury-limited capacity, it’s unknown how serious the Dodgers will consider keeping him around. Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw are sure to remain part of their rotation in 2020, while Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin also represent in-house options who could factor into the mix. And with the offseason ahead, the Dodgers may pick up an outsider(s) in lieu of bringing back Hill and/or fellow soon-to-be free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu.