HomeMLB RumorsRich Hill Still Planning On Midseason Signing

Rich Hill Still Planning On Midseason Signing

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Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is sticking to his plan of signing with a club during the season. He tells Ian Browne of MLB.com that he actually turned down offers from three teams in the winter but is still preparing for an upcoming signing.

“I’ve been working out and throwing,” Hill said. “I’m continuing to progress and get ready for when that opportunity comes around to go and pitch. The idea is to be ready when that time comes.”

It was back in October that Hill told Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune his plan was to wait until the midway point to sign for the 2024 season, which wasn’t an entirely new idea for him. In August of 2022, he told Rob Bradford of WEEI that he was considering the half-season plan for 2023. He didn’t follow through on that, signing with the Pirates for the 2023 campaign in December of 2022. He was later traded to the Padres and finished last season with them.

This time around, it seems Hill is committed to following through on the experiment. The most recent offseason was rough on some veteran players, with Brandon Belt one player who remained unsigned and expressed frustration at the lack of interest. Hill is also unsigned but seemingly by choice, based on his claim that he turned down offers.

He has been open about wanting to spend more time with his family, currently coaching little league games for his son, but there’s also a logic to it from a performance standpoint. He is now 44 years old, far older than the average player. In fact, with Hill unsigned, the oldest active player in MLB right now is the 41-year-old Justin Verlander. If Hill eventually does join a team this summer, he’ll be the oldest player in the league by almost three years, with his March birthday just behind Verlander’s February birthday on the calendar.

Though he has remained remarkably effective into his 40s, his results have naturally dipped a bit. As recently as 2021, he was able to make 31 starts and toss 158 2/3 innings with a 3.86 earned run average. But his ERA ticked up to 4.27 in 2022 and then 5.41 last year. He had a 4.76 mark in 119 innings with the Bucs in 2023 but then an 8.23 ERA with the Padres after the deadline trade.

By waiting until midseason, he could perhaps sacrifice some quantity in favor of quality, staying fresh for the second half of the season while also targeting a spot on a club in the mix for a playoff spot. Contending clubs are always looking to bolster their pitching staffs for the final months of the schedule, and the large number of high-profile injuries could broaden the number of teams seeking reinforcements this year.

Hill’s status as a midseason mercenary will be an interesting experiment to watch this summer. For clubs looking for pitching but reluctant to surrender prospects, they could give Hill a call and not have to give up any young talent. If it goes well, it could potentially even set a precedent for older pitchers; other veteran hurlers might see the appeal of sitting out the first half and saving their bullets for a strong finish and playoff push.

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