The Dodgers officially agreed to a 3-year, $48 million deal with free agent starter Rich Hill on Monday, starting their winter meetings off with a bang. Hill is a curve-ball maestro coming off a career best season that saw him post a 2.12 ERA in 110 1/3 innings after signing out of the independent league a year earlier. Hill will help shore up the Dodgers rotation, filling the “second ace” gap that many so desperately desired.
Hill’s presence in the Dodgers rotation is far from a sure thing. He’s dealt with much publicized blister issues that he swears are behind him, and has said that he feels 30 starts in a year is an attainable goal.
Rich Hill says the blisters are behind him.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) December 5, 2016
Rich Hill said he believes making 30 starts a year is realistic.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) December 5, 2016
He speculate all he wants and he’ll have every chance to prove his durability on the field in 2017.
It’s hard to argue that Hill is anything short of “extremely effective” when he is healthy. His near 30% strike out rate in 2016 is elite and it is backed by his strongly above average walk rate of 7.5%. He throws his curve and fastball almost equally with the ability to change arm slots effectively on both pitches, and hitters slug a paltry .243 against his now famous curve.
The big “if” on Rich Hill is his health, and that’s what the Dodgers will be gambling on. His career high in innings pitched is 195, way back in 2007 with the Cubs. Since then, he threw 160 innings combined from 2008 until 2015 before hurling 110.1 in 2016. If he can maintain his current peripherals and throw around 150 innings, it would be a huge boon to a Dodgers rotation that only had 1 member (Maeda) eclipse that mark in 2016.
The gamble on Hill’s health is very low risk and high reward. If Hill can’t live up to his end of the bargain, the Dodgers are on the hook for $12mil in 2017, $16 mil in 2018 and $18mil in 2019, per the AP. These numbers can look heavy at first glance, but if Hill pitches like he has, they would represent a huge bargain. With the decrease in disabled list time under the new CBA (15-day to 10-day), the Dodgers can easily shuffle Hill on and off the DL to provide extra rest if needed. The depth of pitching within the organization will allow this risk to be easily mitigated. If Hill were to need a DL stint, pitchers like Jose De Leon, Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart, Trevor Oaks or Chase De Jong could easily step in a fill a spot start or two and that list doesn’t include the ability of swingman Vidal Nuno.
In addition to being a strong performer, Hill is just downright fun to watch. Between his swinging leg kicks, fist pumps and his fiery mound energy, his starts should be must watch TV in Los Angeles for those that have the ability. There is no doubt that this deal makes the Dodgers better in 2017, and helps ease fans worries in regard to the package the Dodgers gave up to acquire Hill from the Athletics.