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Rays nearing deal with veteran LHP Rich Hill

Pending a physical, a process that can take more than a week, given pandemic protocols.

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays are close to signing veteran southpaw Rich Hill, pending a physical.

Rich Hill signed with the Minnesota Twins for the pandemic afflicted 2020 campaign, but pitched in just eight games after dealing left shoulder fatigue early on. When he did take the mound, Hill was effective as he finished the year with a 3.03 ERA and 3.99 FIP over 38 23 innings pitched.

The soon-to-be 41-year old Hill joins the Rays staff as the oldest player on the team, as well as the player with the most big league experience. Hill was originally a 4th round draft pick by the Chicago Cubs nearly twenty years ago in 2002. He eventually became one of the Cubs top prospects, making his big league debut during the 2005 season.

After a decade of toiling around between the Majors and minors, all while dealing with various injuries, Hill finally found his niche toward the end of the 2015 season while with the Boston Red Sox. Hill absolutely dominated during his brief tenure in Boston (four games), leading to the Oakland Athletics to give him a one year contract.

This time Hill once again dominated, showcasing that his abilities at the end of 2015 weren’t a fluke. However, he still dealt with some nagging injuries. Nonetheless, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired him at the 2016 trade deadline and after another impressive finish to the season, the Dodgers rewarded Hill with a 3-year, $48M contract.

Over the course of the contract, Hill proved worthy of every centas he consistently put up solid seasons, albeit with several stints on the Injured List, including a prolonged stay in 2019 that cost him half of the season. Those problems seemed to have carried over into 2020 as well, making his future contributions an unknown quantity.

For comparison purposes, since the start of the 2018 season, Charlie Morton has made 72 starts with 399.2 IP and a 3.24 ERA (29.2% K, 7.9% BB). Rich Hill in that time frame has only 45 starts with 229 IP, but with similar results overall with a 3.36 ERA (26.7% K, 7.9% BB). Both performances rank in the top-25 in baseball by ERA. He’s good, but perhaps half as durable as the outgoing Rays veteran.

Given his profile and risk of continued injury, the Rays should not be expected to determine his role in 2021 until after he begins throwing in camp.

Hill has experience as both a starter and a reliever, although he hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since a stint with the New York Yankees during the 2014 season. He’ll join a Rays pitching staff that will be full of new faces as he’ll be joined by several other new additions such as Chris Archer and Michael Wacha, who signed one year deals, and potentially Luis Patiño.

Rich Hill was previously our top target among lefties that could be added to the Rays roster in an Aaron-Loup-style role for next season, with Ian Malinowski writing:

Now 41 and topping out below 90 mph, Rich Hill still has one of the best fastball-curve combos in baseball, with his fastball rising significantly and his curve dropping significantly, and the two operating on mirrored planes, which some evidence suggest increases the deception.

Also of note from his personal life, Hill previously wrote an impactful essay in The Player’s Tribune honoring the loss of his infant son Brooks in 2014 due to a rare disease with no cure. Along with his essay, Hill kicked off a fundraising campaign that has raised nearly $900,000 for research into the genetic disorder that took his son’s life.