Welcome back to Free Averency, in which our own Avery Hamel takes a look at all of the Sox in-house free agents ahead of the crucial 2022-23 offseason. Last week, she looked at Nate Eovaldi. Today, she examines a pitcher with a few more miles on him.
Rich Hill was a surprise signing this offseason. Coming off of a rather impressive year with Tampa Bay where the veteran was able to pitch almost 125 innings, Hill signed one of the most lucrative one-year deals of his career. At one year, $5 million, he was not necessarily a big expense for Boston, who was looking for a number five starter to round out their rotation. Hill was a surprise stronghold in the backend of an ever-changing rotation, posting a 4.08 xERA, 3.92 FIP, and 0.9 bWAR.
Now, you know the drill. With this information, and keeping his monetary value in mind, what should the Red Sox do regarding Hill’s status in 2023? He was mostly consistent and held his own in a rotation when he occupied the No. 2, 3, and 4 spots. To help answer these questions, let us first look at a pair of players that compared well to Hill in 2022.
With an affinity rating of .87 is Drew Smyly. Smyly, a Chicago Cubs starter, has spent over nine years in the majors, and his 2022 season was one of his best in recent years. He finished the year with 106.1 IP and a 3.47 ERA, 4.18 xFIP, and 1.9 bWAR.
Due to his age, Smyly is more comparable for contract prediction purposes. This year, the Cubs signed him to a one-year, $5.25 million deal. Smyly, 33 years old and with nine years of major league experience, is very similar to Hill. Over their careers, Hill has been slightly better (or at least more consistent) which is what keeps their AAV close despite the nine-year age gap.
Hill: 3.85 ERA, 4.48 xFIP, 16.6 bWAR
Smyly: 4.10 ERA, 4.11 xFIP, 11.9 bWAR
A No. 1 in the NL West:
Next up is Merrill Kelly. In 2022, Kelly was the Arizona Diamondback’s top starter, and his season had a .85 Affinity ranking to Hill’s 2022. Racking up an astounding 200 IP (the sixth largest total in MLB) in 33 starts for Arizona, Kelly finished the season with a 3.37 ERA, 3.65 FIP and 3.5 bWAR.
Again, not a bad person to be compared to if you’re Hill.
But Kelly is nearly nine years younger than the experienced Hill, meaning that his contract AAV of $9 million is not in the ballpark of offers that Hill may see.
Hill proved this year that he indeed can still provide solid innings a backend rotation spot. At 42, Hill started 26 games (the second-highest mark of his career) even after missing a month on the big-league roster due to a pestering knee issue.
Hill’s 2023 deal, with any team, will probably stay in the $5 million range. I doubt he would sign (or be offered) any contract longer than one year with a team/mutual option. This puts my prediction at one-year, ~$5.5 million, with the unlikely possibility of a team adding a team option to this.
Additionally, Hill has mentioned that he may take the first half of the season off and return at the midway point.
The question now, though, is should (and will) the Red Sox offer Hill such a deal?
What should the Red Sox do?
Of the three starting pitcher free agents on Boston’s 2022 roster, I think the Red Sox should try to retain one or two of them. I’ve already argued my case for both Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha, which leaves Hill as the odd man out.
Hill has been popular in Boston since his stint with the team from 2011-2012 and was welcomed back wholeheartedly this year, but I think it’s time for his Boston adventure to end.
With the abundance of stellar starting pitching available in this year’s free agent class, the nearly 43-year-old Hill is not someone that Boston should use their “limited” funds on.
In the odd case that Hill pulls a 2019 Craig Kimbrel and decides not to join a team until later in the season (for different reasons, obviously), he may be worth a look for Boston— depending on their divisional position, rotation situation, and funds.
What Should The Sox Do With Rich Hill?
This poll is closed
Offer him a one-year deal for around $5.5 million.
Talk to him again next June.
Let him walk.