Fourteen years ago, in the fourth round of the 2002 Major League draft, the Chicago Cubs selected a 22 year-old southpaw by the name of Rich Hill. From the very beginning, the lefty was known for his wicked curveball and high strikeout totals. A top prospect, he debuted with the Cubs in 2005, settled into their rotation in 2006, and made 32 solid starts in 2007.
It all went south from there.
Hill couldn’t find the strike zone in 2008, even getting sent down to Rookie ball. From there, he was simply broken. Injuries and poor performance sent him to six different organizations in six years. He only totaled 133.1 innings in the major leagues over that span, posting an awful 5.60 ERA. Hill was a journeyman, organizational filler. In 2015 he signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. After being released on June 24, the 35 year-old found himself out of Major League Baseball.
He joined the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League and struck out an absurd 21 batters in 11 innings. The Boston Red Sox took notice, and for the third time in his professional career he signed a minor league deal with the club.
This time, he stuck. Hill came out of nowhere in September to throw four dominant starts for the Red Sox, giving up only five runs over 29 innings, striking out 36. While Hill expected to stay in Boston, the Red Sox didn’t have room in their rotation for him, so instead he found himself signing a one year, $6 million contract to start for the Oakland A’s, only months removed from independent ball.
We all know the story from there. After a rocky emergency start on Opening Night, Hill has continued to dominate. Only a slight groin injury has been able to slow him down (and probably cost him an All-Star berth), as his 2.25 ERA would be the best in the American League if he had enough innings to qualify. As the A’s find themselves out of the race, Hill’s days in Oakland are numbered. This time, however, he won’t be going off to sign another minor league deal -- he’ll be pitching at the front of the rotation for a postseason contender.
Hill has gone from a top prospect to a minor league journeyman to a forgotten independent leaguer to an ace, and a red-hot commodity at the trade deadline. The market for starting pitching has gone bone dry - this offseason’s free agent class is headlined by Hill, Andrew Cashner (5.40 ERA), and Jeremy Hellickson (3.92). The number of contenders desperately in need of a front-line starting pitcher vastly outnumber the amount of front-line starters available. Hill is the jewel of the market.
Below, you will find every rumor (listed chronologically) regarding Rich Hill and his suitors. This list will be updated as more rumors float in, up until his inevitable trade. Buckle up, folks. Welcome aboard the rollercoaster that is Rich Hill’s career.
(Reverse chronological order, newest rumors at the top.)
July 25: Hill still hasn’t returned to mound, and will probably again need a protective sleeve for his blister for his Wednesday (7/26) bullpen session, per Susan Slusser
July 17: Red Sox discussed Hill before trading for Pom instead, says Buster Olney
July 17: Hill leaves start after just 5 pitches due to blister
July 14: Red Sox acquire LHP Drew Pomeranz, affecting the market for Hill
July 14: Hill scratched from start w/ blister, per Susan Slusser
July 12: Marlins added to long list of teams with interest, per Barry Jackson
July 9: Athletics could charge a very high price for Hill, per Rosenthal
July 7: Astros, Tigers have scouts in attendance at next start, per Slusser
July 2: Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Royals, Pirates, Cubs, and Red Sox have scouts in attendance at Hill’s first start off the DL, per Susan Slusser
July 2: “Most realistic” starting pitching target for Red Sox could be Hill, per Rosenthal
June 9: Placed on disabled list after setback in groin injury, the team announced
May 30: Pirates could pursue Hill, per Travis Sawchik
May 29: “Mild” groin strain suffered, per Joe Stiglich
May 26: Rich Hill will be this summer’s sought-after arm, by Connor Byrne
May 21: Hill could be a hot commodity, per Ken Rosenthal
May 20, 2016: Hill could make sense for the Red Sox, per Peter Gammons
Nov. 17, 2015: Rich Hill signs with the Athletics
List will be updated with all future rumors