Let's pretend you have a time machine. No, you greedy mongrel, you can't go back and buy a lottery ticket. No you can't bet on the NCAA Tournament with a perfect bracket in hand. Instead, you'll go straight to November 17th, 2015, the day news of Rich Hill's signing first broke. Knowing what you know now from Hill's five tremendously fun and tumultuous starts, what kind of deal would you offer the lefty?
On Baseball Prospectus' podcast Effectively Wild, hosts Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller have an ongoing discussion on this topic. The years and dollars of their hypothetical offers have ranged as Hill's season has had its ups and downs. For the most part though, both hosts have been somewhere in the range of two years, $20 million dollars. After Hill's gem on Tuesday, that number jumped to a season high 3 years/$42 million.
It's just a hypothetical exercise with some obvious flaws, but it's still a fun topic. Ignoring the fact that Hill might reject a two year offer and what not, what would you give Rich Hill seeing what he's done in his first five starts?
The argument against a multi-year deal
Giving Hill a guaranteed rotation spot itself carried some risk given Hill's history, though the A's mitigated that risk some by signing Henderson Alvarez.
A year contract really can't harm a team, even a poor one like the A's. Multi-year deals are a little different, there's no guaranteeing what the A's might do next offseason and how much money they may need, so being smart with every penny counts. Hill hasn't made it through even a quarter of a season in nearly a decade, so giving him anything beyond a year is a risky move. His excellent start doesn't make his health any less of a question.
The argument for a multi-year deal
Hill is a classic medium risk, high reward signing. There's always a cause for concern, Hill seems to be towing a tightrope ever start out, walking over a pit full of crocodiles and disabled list visits.
When he's on that rope, he's still a guy who will strike out almost everyone, hit those that don't K, and generally pitch like an ace and a wild prospect all at once. He showed impeccable control in 2015, and we finally caught a glimpse of that Tuesday night. In the early goings, though, we saw Hill when he's not right, and it's not exactly pretty.
Longer deals can turn bad in a hurry; there's not a single A's fan who wants to be burdened with another Butler-esque contract anytime soon.
At the same time, those contracts usually don't hinder the team much, either. Even with Butler, or Jim Johnson, or Ben Sheets, the A's have financial wiggle room and an ability to compete. As it stands, the A's probably have $5-10 mm in free payroll, so there's certainly room for risks like this.
Then there's a guy like Scott Kazmir. Like Hill, Kaz was a high risk signing, a guy who was out of professional baseball before re-finding his stuff and getting a two year deal from the A's. In hindsight, and this is total, complete hindsight, a third year on Kaz's deal would look nice, wouldn't it? The A's swapped Kaz for a substantial package and another year of control would have made that excellent deal all the more beautiful.
What would it take to sign Hill to a multi-year deal?
The A's jumped on Hill pretty quickly this offseason so it's not clear what kind of offers he was receiving. There was a substantiated rumor that he did have a higher dollar offer in hand, but turned that down for guaranteed shot at making 32 starts. From the sounds of it, he didn't have any multi year offers in hand.
The reason for that could be either Hill wanting a shorter deal to build his value or teams being unwilling to give Hill a longer deal. I'd wager that it's at least partially on Hill, it would make sense he'd want to prove himself to cash in on a bigger payday. Turning down a two year deal for one isn't a huge risk.
My guess would be Hill wouldn't accept a commensurate two year deal, you'd have to up the dollars per year. Likely, it'd take around $8-10 million per year for a two year deal to get done.
So, what would you do?
I'll give you five options in the poll - avoid Hill like the plague (or Ben Sheets), go with what the A's did, or sign him to a two or three year deal for around $10-$15 million per year (this isn't exact), or other. What kind of gambler are you?