12-28-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Well folks, the Pirates needed a lefty, and they got one, for 8 Million bucks.
They also needed someone who could step right in and be a definitive part of the rotation as opposed to someone looking to resurrect their career. Rich will be 43 by March, he’s all done learning new tricks.
I mean, when you’ve played 18 MLB seasons from the West Coast to the East Coast, you aren’t going to hide what you are.
Rich Hill is the very definition of Soft Tossing Lefty, and as many will joke freely, those guys can pitch forever. Obviously that’s not true, but it’s not entirely fiction either.
The Pirates rotation isn’t set, but Mitch Keller, Roansy Contreras, Rich Hill, JT Brubaker, and Vince Velasquez is a much better than last year way to start.
So let’s start with what most of you are thinking….
Why Would They Sign a 42 Year Old?
Simply put, he was the best left handed starter available who was willing to sign a one year deal. And he’s been more of a plus than the couple you could name like Wade Miley or Danny Duffy. Mike Minor was a complete disaster last year.
So if the Pirates were looking for someone who could legitimately fill a role, and help this club, might as well be someone who’s accustomed to the exact role the Pirates want filled. Seasoned starter who more often than not hands the ball off to the bullpen after at least 5 innings, with a repertoire not likely to evaporate.
He’s not reliant on a fastball, in fact his average exit velocity is higher than his average fastball.
Point is, his age hardly matters, the Pirates really only need whatever he gives them this year.
How Does This Make Them Better?
First, it might not.
But here’s the theory. The Pirates by adding this player are giving time for Ortiz, Oviedo, Burrows, Bolton, and Priester, to marinate a bit all while surrounding everyone else with a proven major leaguer to learn from. In fact, all Spring long those five will have him to learn from.
That’s the theory. Truth is, no matter why you believe the Pirates feel they need to show real improvement in 2023, they absolutely do believe it themselves.
Public pressure, trying to prove it to younger players they want to extend, laying a base for next year so agents see them as serious, who knows. Maybe even just where they saw themselves.
Regardless, they’ve done everything this offseason they said they would. Wanted to fix first base for 2023, done. Wanted to add a couple starting pitchers, well mostly done. Wanted to add bullpen arms, again, done. Needed to add some OF right handed depth, did.
Said they’d spend more this year, have.
The only people surprised by all this are the multitudes who don’t believe anything they say.
All that said, Rich Hill gives them a real chance to be better in 2023, even if he won’t be the best pitcher they have, he’ll still be a better bet than a rookie to start the season.
Look, you want the record to matter? This says it does to them. Even if they’re wrong.
Why No Long Term Free Agent Deals?
Bluntly, name a position on the field or on the mound and I’ll reel off a list of prospects due to debut in 2023 or 2024.
This really comes down to not wanting to make any long term decisions yet on players outside the roster. Essentially, they don’t as we sit here see permanent holes. Well, except left handed pitching and that’s where they did get Garcia for 2 years.
I could argue left handed starter should have been immune to this line of thinking, but the board didn’t really agree. Everyone who was available had some kind of wart. Exception in my mind being Jose Quintana, and even he couldn’t have been for more than a couple years due to his age.
Next year, they’ll have the same issue, and next year the hope is by showing they’ll pay 8 million for a veteran starter, a full 2 million over his expected contract offers this year, they can show they shouldn’t be out of sight and out of mind to the agents.
Now, What Can We Really Expect from Hill?
He’s got a relatively spotty history really. Far more seasons in which he spent most of his time on the IL than those in which he put up a big innings count.
I’d put him right around 130 innings if everything goes well. That’s not a full season, and since most of you assume he’ll be traded at the deadline, this should really make sense. In fact, Rich is very used to this himself. He’s been traded at the deadline 3 times already and with the youth the Pirates have on the cusp, they should be ready from both a competition standpoint and expectations on what Hill could provide to pull the trigger.
It’s safe to say a sub 4.00 ERA is doable for Hill, and he’ll use his new home ballpark to his advantage. Unless he faces J-Hay that is.
His strikeouts per 9 have steadily dropped since his peak in 2014 but his career average is still over 9.
There might not be a prettier pitch in baseball than Rich Hill’s curveball.
He probably isn’t a great comp because Adam Wainwright will eat innings like few can, but Rich Hill is the left handed version of that. You’ll look up and see it’s the 6th and wonder how he got there by throwing all this junk, but after a while you’ll just quit trying to figure it out and enjoy.
There isn’t much to hate here. You can of course say he’s 43, if he gets hurt the Pirates just threw away 8 million dollars, but folks, you can’t have it both ways. If you want them to spend, they’re going to have to take risks. That’s what this is, a calculated risk, and one they can surely afford.
His signing won’t prevent them from anyone you want extended being offered. It won’t hold anyone back for long should they excel, and it gives them a real backbone veteran, in this case one old enough to be some of their younger player’s father.
This isn’t the deal I’d have targeted early on in free agency, but it is what I said they needed if they were going to get one more. They had to make sure it was a clear drop in to at least the middle of the rotation, and even if he doesn’t have staying power, Hill is every bit that.
There are some among you that would prefer they just play all kids regardless of whether they’re ready or not, but again, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t ask for and expect improvement, yet complain when they look for and sign contingency plans and upgrades to one year deals.
The roster is much more complete as we head to Spring Training this year, and that’s a good thing.
And for this year, quit worrying about Bryan Reynolds, I assure you the team is already past it. They have his rights, he has a signed contract, and he’s a big part of what they feel will take them from 100 loss team to visible improvement and a better record in 2023. I know you’re seeing a bunch of rumors, and you certainly don’t have to believe me, but there is just zero interest from the Pirates. This matter is settled for now in their minds in fact they probably aren’t done making offers.
I’m also hearing, and please don’t get your hopes up, there is real interest to bring Andrew McCutchen back for a season or two. I can’t speak for Cutch, and won’t, but internally the Pirates are at least considering it and have had some conversations with his agent.
If this happens, don’t let what Andrew has become taint what you remember him being. He’s simply not the same player. I still like the fit, but just don’t expect him to be the MVP you remember. IF this happens, again this is the very definition of reporting whispers.