[Update] Dodgers closing in on 3-year deal with Rich Hill

Rich Hill may already be back with the Dodgers on a three-year deal, at least if rumblings Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe and Peter Gammons have been hearing ring true.

It’s nice to be Hill these days because he’s the best starting pitcher in free agency. Hill would love to come back east and pitch for the Red Sox, Yankees, or Orioles, but the Dodgers want him back and there are rumors that they may have already sealed the deal at three years and $46 million-$48 million.

Hill had previously expressed interest in returning to the Dodgers to SportsNetLA at the end of the season.

Hill, of course, is the premier starting pitcher free agent on the market, which says a lot about him but also the state of the market. Hill is 36 and hasn’t topped 110.1 innings since 2007, but his late-career breakout story is well known by now and he’s definitely one of the better pitchers in baseball when he can take the mound.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about exactly why it would make sense to bring back Hill for the Dodgers, specifically.

While those two free agents are the ones everybody has on their minds right now as the common sense moves, I think there’s one more Dodger free agent that fits into the same category: Rich Hill. When he’s been healthy, Hill’s been a top-of-the-rotation type of arm, which is what the Dodgers need. In 2016, Hill posted a 2.12 ERA and 2.39 FIP for an impressive 53 ERA- and 58 FIP-, striking out 29.4 percentof batters and walking 7.5 percent of batters. Despite pitching just 110.1 innings this year, those numbers were good enough for a WAR of 4.2 by RA9 and 3.8 by FIP.

Of course, the downside is that his 2016 innings total, while already low, is actually his most since 2007. Besides the long list of maladies that led him to pitching in independent ball as recent as 2015, just in 2016 alone Hill’s blister problem caused him to miss months of starts and that’s a problem that’s more chronic than magically fixed after a recovery period. As such, in addition to his age (37), there’s a ton of injury risk in investing in Hill. Still, it’s hard to emphasize exactly how good he has been, as people don’t ever seem to want to believe it.

richhill2016era

richhill2016fip

Yeah, that’ll do.

That production is worth a lot, especially in this starting pitching market, and Law and MLB Trade Rumors both have him pegged at three years and $50 million ($16.7M AAV). However, FanGraphs goes a shorter route but with more money per year at two years and $48 million ($24M AAV). Meanwhile, Szymborski projects his value at three years and $39 million ($13MM AAV), which sounds low but likely makes sense given his age and risk factors. Preferably, a deal for Hill would fall to like two years and $40 million with a third-year vesting option, but three years and $50 million sounds reasonable enough as well.

It makes sense because while the Dodgers have a lot of starting pitching depth, they don’t have the other front-line arm they need. Hill can step into that void behind Clayton Kershaw, but he does come with injury risk, and that’s where the depth comes into play. One can safely assume he’ll miss time, but ideally those innings will be filled with average production due to the surplus of decent starters, and hopefully the Dodgers can manage Hill’s health like they did in 2016 so that he’s ready to go in October. He’s really an ideal fit for the way the Dodgers are currently constructed, and when the second-best starter on the market is arguably Jeremy Hellickson and the trade cost for a front-line starter is going to be enormous, spending money on Hill seems like the best option.

All of that still applies.

I had hoped for two years in an ideal world, but if it ends up a three years and $40-something million, it would be impossible for me to complain about it.

Any team that signs Hill takes on a lot of risk given his age and injury history, but the upside is a #1 starter, and in a market where those cost a comical amount to acquire, it’s an alluring prospect. Importantly, of all the teams, the Dodgers are situated to be able to take that chance due to their depth with minor-league options.

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As far as the validity of the rumors themselves, they seem plausible enough and are being reported by two known and reliable sources. That said, if this were actually done, the cynic in me says there’d be more noise around the best starting pitcher on the market signing. Regardless, I’ll definitely be hoping this rumor proves true at the Winter Meetings.

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Update

Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports the Dodgers are “close” to inking Hill to a deal in the “neighborhood” of three years and $48 million.

The Dodgers are close to re-signing one of their top in-house free agents.

With the Winter Meetings set to begin Monday, they are closing in on a multi-year deal with left-hander Rich Hill. The deal is not done yet and Dodgers officials would not comment on the situation.

If a deal with Hill is finalized, it is expected to be in the same neighborhood as the three-year, $48 million contract given to Scott Kazmir as a free agent last winter (though much of Kazmir’s money is deferred, affecting its total value).

Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times is saying the Dodgers appear to be “on the verge” of a deal with Hill.

On the eve of the winter meetings, the Dodgers appeared on the verge of re-signing the pitcher they viewed as the best of this free-agent class. The team was believed to be making progress toward a multi-year reunion with Rich Hill, according to people familiar with the situation. The people requested anonymity because no agreement had been finalized.

Manny Randhawa of MLB.com reports the Dodgers are close to finalizing a three-year deal with Hill.

The Dodgers are close to finalizing a three-year contract with left-hander Rich Hill, one of the top free-agent starters on the market this offseason, sources confirmed to MLB.com.

Sounds good. And with three sources confirming identical information, it seems like a deal will get done.

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama

I get paid millions by the Dodgers.

MILLIONS!