RICH HILL, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: March 11, 1980
Drafted: 4th Round, 112th Overall, 2002 (Cubs)
How Acquired: Free Agent
College: University of Michigan
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Hill is one of MLB’s ultimate survivors. He’s had a very long career; in fact, when 2023 starts he figures to be the oldest player in the game at 43. It took him a long time to get firmly established and he’s missed time due to injury in nearly every season. His first big contract started in his age 37 season. He’s been a free agent 15 separate times, and pitched in 13 separate organizations and for 11 different major league teams. Boston signed him as a free agent six different times, five of them to minor league deals.
Hill relies heavily on an outstanding curve that he throws anywhere from a third to half of the time. He also throws a four-seam fastball that sat in the low-90s for much of his career, but now is closer to 88 mph. Opponents struggle with the curve but the fastball is hittable. Hill also throws a cutter, slider and change, all of which are effective at times. Since he relies mainly on the combination of fastballs up and curves, he’s somewhat prone to longballs. He struggled to throw strikes early in his career, but generally has good control now. For many year, he put up extremely high K rates, but the swing-and-miss has been less prominent the last few years. Over his career he’s had just a minor platoon split. The Pirates signed Hill to a one-year deal for 2023.
Hill made five starts and one relief appearance in his debut, and had trouble throwing strikes.
The Cubs sent Hill back to short season ball for 14 starts and he led the league in strikeouts. He also made 15 appearances in low A and had extremely high walk and strikeout rates. Baseball America ranked him 27th in the Cubs’ system after the season.
The walks and strikeouts continued for Hill in the Florida State League. BA ranked him 24th in the system.
Hill started throwing far more strikes and made his way through three levels. He also led the minors in K/9. BA ranked him fifth in the system.
The Cubs called Hill up in May and he got hammered over four starts. After going back to AAA for two months, he spent the season’s last two months in the majors and was much more effective, with an ERA of 2.60 over a dozen starts and one relief appearance. Hill had some trouble with gopher balls, giving up 16.
Hill had a strong season for the Cubs, making 32 starts. His one problem was with the longball, as he allowed 27.
Hill opened the season struggling to throw strikes, walking 18 in 19.2 IP over his first four starts. After a start where he walked four of the first six batters he faced, the Cubs sent him to AAA. He continued to have trouble finding the plate and also suffered from muscle strains. Chicago eventually sent Hill to rookie ball and then high A. He missed the last month of the season due to back soreness.
In February, the Cubs sent Hill to Baltimore for cash. He went through an injury-plaged season. He missed time with an elbow injury, suffered in spring training. He ultimately missed much of the season due to elbow and shoulder issues, and shoulder surgery put an end to it in early August. The Orioles outrighted Hill after the season, he elected free agency and he signed a minor league deal with the Cards.
Hill pitched in AAA for St. Louis until the end of June, when he opted out of his contract. He signed a minor league deal the same day, with Boston. After pitching most of the rest of the season in AAA for Boston, Hill got called up in mid-September. The Red Sox outrighted Hill after the season and he became a free agent, but he signed another minor league deal with Boston.
Hill opened the season in AAA and spent the season’s first month in AAA. Eventually, the Red Sox called him up and used him strictly in relief. Hill missed the second half of the season with an elbow sprain, which resulted in Tommy John surgery. Hill became a free agent after the season and Boston signed him to another minor league deal.
Boston added Hill back to the 40-man roster in February and he returned from rehab at the end of April. Once in the majors, he pitched strictly in relief, but he went out a week into June with a forearm strain. Following rehab, Hill returned to Boston for the month of September. He became a free agent again after the season and signed a minor league deal with Cleveland.
Cleveland called Hill up during spring training and he spent the entire season in the majors. He appeared in 63 games, but only worked 38.2 innings, as the Indians utilized him as a lefty specialist. He wasn’t effective, mainly due to poor control. After the season, he became a free agent again and signed another minor league deal with Boston.
Hill spent three months in AAA with Boston, and then the Red Sox sent him for cash to the Angels, who immediately called him up. Hill was with the Angels for only a week. He got into two games and failed to retire any of the four batters he faced. The Angels released him and he signed a minor league deal with the Yankees. They called him up in early August, then designated him for assignment at the end of the month, only to call him up again several days later. Hill pitched strictly in relief all year. After the season he became a free agent again and signed a minor league deal with Washington.
The Nationals sent Hill to AAA, where he pitched in relief while struggled with his control. The Nationals released him in late June and he caught on with Long Island of the independent Atlantic League. He made two starts there, then signed a minor league deal with Boston in mid-August. The Sox called him up in early September and he made four outstanding starts with them. Hill became a free agent after the season and signed a major league deal with Oakland.
Hill opened the season in the Oakland rotation. He missed most of the month of June with a groin injury. Missed most of August with a blister. Hill returned at the beginning of July, but after two more games the A’s traded him to the Dodgers. Hill pitched in a starting role with both the A’s and Dodgers and did well at both stops. After the season, he became a free agent and then signed a three-year, $48M contract with the Dodgers.
Hill stayed in the Dodgers’ rotation, other than Missing a month with a blister, and had a very strong season. He had very strong walk and K rates and opponents managed just a .639 OPS against him.
Hill had a nearly identical season to the one before. That included more injuries, as he missed about six weeks altogether with finger injuries.
Injuries cost Hill a lot more of his final contract year and he made just 14 starts for the Dodgers. He missed most of the first month with a knee sprain, then missed most of the second half with a forearm strain. When he did pitch, he was as effective as ever. After the season he became a free agent and signed a one-year deal with Minnesota.
In the pandemic season, Hill made only eight starts for the Twins. He continued to be very effective, although his walk and K rates slipped considerably. After the season, he signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay.
With the Rays, Hill continued pitching well through 19 starts. In July, the Rays traded him to the Mets and he made another 12 starts there. His K rate appeared to settle in at a lower level than in most of his career. After the season he signed with the Red Sox.
With Boston, Hill continued much along the same lines as the previous two years. He missed July with a sprained knee. He finished the season well, with a 2.36 ERA in his last five starts.
Hill’s stuff has been less dominant the last few years than it was for most of his career, but he’s still been effective. There’s obviously a risk with a 43-year-old player, but Hill is aging very slowly. The Pirates no doubt will be hoping for a good first half so they can trade him for prospects at the deadline.
|Signing Bonus: $655,830
MiLB Debut: 2002
MLB Debut: 6/15/2005
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2014
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2005, 2006, 2008)
MLB Service Time: 13.127
|June 3, 1999: Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 36th round, 1088th overall pick.
June 5, 2001: Drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the 7th round, 209th overall pick.
June 4, 2002: Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 4th round, 112th overall pick; signed on July 10.
June 15, 2005: Contract purchased by the Chicago Cubs.
February 2, 2009: Traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations.
October 30, 2009: Outrighted to AAA by the Baltimore Orioles; refused assignment and became a free agent on November 3.
January 26, 2010: Signed as a minor league free agent by the St. Louis Cardinals.
June 30, 2010: Exercised escape clause and became a free agent.
June 30, 2010: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Boston Red Sox.
September 13, 2010: Called up by the Boston Red Sox.
October 8, 2010: Outrighted to AAA by the Boston Red Sox.
November 6, 2010: Became a free agent.
December 16, 2010: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Boston Red Sox.
May 5, 2011: Called up by the Boston Red Sox.
December 12, 2011: Became a free agent.
December 30, 2011: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Boston Red Sox.
February 21, 2012: Called up by the Boston Red Sox.
November 30, 2012: Became a free agent.
February 7, 2013: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Cleveland Indians.
March 11, 2013: Called up by the Cleveland Indians.
October 31, 2013: Became a free agent.
January 31, 2014: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Boston Red Sox.
July 1, 2014: Traded by the Boston Red Sox to the Anaheim Angels for cash considerations.
July 1, 2014: Called up by the Anaheim Angels.
July 5, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Anaheim Angels; released on July 9.
July 16, 2014: Signed as a minor league free agent by the New York Yankees.
August 5, 2014: Called up by the New York Yankees.
August 29, 2014: Designated for assignment by the New York Yankees; outrighted to AAA on August 31.
September 2, 2014: Called up by the New York Yankees.
October 30, 2014: Became a free agent.
February 27, 2015: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Washington Nationals.
June 24, 2015: Released by the Washington Nationals.
August 10, 2015: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Boston Red Sox.
September 8, 2015: Called up by the Boston Red Sox.
November 2, 2015: Became a free agent.
November 20, 2015: Signed as a free agent by the Oakland Athletics.
August 1, 2016: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Josh Reddick to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton.
November 3, 2016: Became a free agent.
December 5, 2016: Signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
October 31, 2019: Became a free agent.
December 31, 2019: Signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Twins.
October 28, 2020: Became a free agent.
February 17, 2021: Signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Rays.
July 23, 2021: Traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the New York Mets for Matt Dyer and Tommy Hunter.
November 3, 2021: Became a free agent.
December 1, 2021: Signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox.
November 6, 2022: Became a free agent.
December 27, 2022: Signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.