Via AllinOne Sports
Over the past week, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been mentioned as possibly being interested in Oakland A’s starting pitcher Rich Hill. With Andrew Friedman’s obsession over starting pitching depth and Hill’s strong performance this season, the rumor may have some truth behind it. However, that does not mean Friedman should actually pursue the lefty. Hill has had a strong season, but at age 36 with a very underwhelming track record, Hill’s performance to start the season may not be replicated over the second half of the year. Plus, the starting pitching market is notoriously weak this trade season, potentially forcing the Dodgers to pay a higher price than necessary for a pitcher who will not be enough of an upgrade on any current options to make the team a legitimate World Series contender.
Even though the Dodgers were recently forced to acquire Bud Norris due to the incredible number of injuries plaguing the starting rotation, the team actually has significant depth. In terms of those on the DL, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood, and Clayton Kershaw will likely return a couple of weeks after the All-Star break. Not to mention the team already has seen the long-awaited returns of Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu. McCarthy has had a stronger start than Ryu with a 2.70 ERA over his first two starts whereas Ryu got shelled for six runs in only 4.2 innings in his 2016 debut, but both pitchers have regained all of their velocity and now just need to regain the rhythm of making multiple starts in a row. Once Kershaw and Wood are healthy around the end of July, the Dodgers will have 7 highly capable starters, four of which are lefties. Adding Rich Hill, another lefty, to the rotation would be redundant especially with left-hander Brett Anderson primed for an early August return. On top of the Dodgers’ tremendous major league starting pitching depth, top prospect Jose De Leon threw 97 pitches in his most recent start at AAA. With a 3.03 ERA and a whopping 44 strikeouts in 29 innings, De Leon is very close to being major league ready and could have a huge impact over the second half of the season. Hill’s first half performance of a 2.25 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 76 innings and stellar peripheral numbers would put him near the top of the Dodgers’ rotation. However, he has already been on the DL once this season and for a 36-year-old who has only had one other season in which he was an effective major league starter, some regression may be in his future. Trading for Hill would only worsen the coming glut of starters the Dodgers will have, and with the aforementioned concerns, he may not end up being much of an upgrade for the rotation.
Unlike years past when stars such as Cole Hamels and David Price were actively being shopped at the deadline, this year’s trade season for starting pitchers looks to be barren. Hill and Julio Teheran are far and away the two best options, and Teheran being traded is far from a sure thing. This leaves Hill as the only pitcher who qualifies as someone who could slide in atop a team’s rotation, and even that is questionable thanks to his spotty track record. A low supply of trade targets is bound to result in a market where teams will have to give up more than usual to acquire a decent starter. For a team like the Dodgers that has shown a huge aversion towards trading away top young talent in the trade market, this dramatically decreases the probability of a Hill trade, and that is a good thing.
Hill is only on a one-year contract, so he will be a free agent this offseason. Trading for a rental player is always a delicate business since it is far from guaranteed that the player will not seek greener pastures once free agency hits a couple months down the road. The Dodgers are different than most teams in that resigning free agents is more of a question of “do we want to” rather “can we” but trading a decent prospect(s) for Hill just to see him leave in December would be a waste of young talent. In return for Hill, the A’s would likely demand at least one mid-level prospect, meaning a package of Chase de Jong and Jharel Cotton would likely be enough to get a deal done. While this may not be a massive return for a guy with a 2.25 ERA this season, Hill is unlikely to have a huge impact on the overall performance of the Dodgers. Plus, he will be entering free agency prior to a season as a 37-year-old, making a return to L.A. in the offseason extremely unlikely. The Dodgers would be trading away two solid prospects that could have an impact on a major league rotation as soon as this season for a player that will not have a huge tangible impact on the team’s record and will likely only be in the organization for 2-3 months. For those in the win-now at all costs camp, that may seem reasonable but for others (including the Dodgers front office in all likelihood) that’s a price the team is unwilling to pay.
Hill has a great story as a former journeyman now finding success in the majors, but he does not fit with what the Dodgers need in order to set themselves up as true World Series contenders. Further, his age and the price it would take to acquire him does not line up with the Dodgers’ philosophy and the vision the front office has for the team’s future. Hill is a good pitcher that looks like he will definitely be traded at the deadline to a contending team, but Dodger fans should be hoping that his new destination is not Los Angeles.
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