The Red Sox will face old friend Rich Hill this week in Boston's series against the A's. If not for the opportunity Oakland could offer Hill, though, it might be the Sox benefiting from the lefty right now instead. The Red Sox reportedly offered Hill a contract when he was a free agent this winter, but what they couldn't guarantee was a rotation spot, and that sent Hill west to the rebuilding Athletics.
The offer was for less than the $6 million Hill received from Oakland, but President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski makes it clear he believes that the spot the A's could offer was the real decision maker for the southpaw.
"We like what he did for us last year," Dombrowski said. "He pitched very well. It wasn't like we could look at him and say he was a guaranteed starter. We knew we were going to try to add a guy at the top of the rotation. He would've been in competition, and he also would've been a guy if he wasn't starting for us that we could've put into the bullpen. But he just had such a good opportunity with Oakland."
Hill signed on November 23, a few weeks before Wade Miley was dealt to the Mariners for Carson Smith and less than two weeks before David Price had been locked up by the Sox. If Boston guaranteed Hill a rotation spot, they would have had to clear out multiple other starters once Price came aboard instead of just Miley, and maybe things would have played out so that Steven Wright didn't end up with the opportunity to play fill-in for the rotation to begin the year -- an event that has likely won him a permanent gig as a starter for the Sox, with a start to 2016 as impressive as Hill's own.
The hypothetical aside, Hill's guaranteed spot had to come with a team that was expecting to lose in 2016, one that knew they could give him the spot because it would be worth it later on if he thrived: then they knew they had a starter they could trade before the deadline in order to help with their rebuild. The Sox already had a number of rotation questions entering the year, so adding Hill to that uncomfortably lengthy list didn't have the same appeal for Boston, as much as they liked what he could be. Remember, Hill had thrown all of 29 innings in the majors in 2015, and hasn't thrown a full season as a starter since 2007: the ceiling was (and is) as high as the floor is low.
Maybe Hill really has turned a corner in his career, though, and can be an impact arm for the duration of 2016. If that's the case, then maybe the Red Sox will have an opportunity with him later on in the year. A mid-season trade with the A's will cost more than the $6 million Oakland guaranteed him, but if the lack of a quality starter is all that stands in the way of the So -- who at that point would be more sure of their desire to re-sign him by the end of the year -- then it could very well be worth it.