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December 6, 2016

Transaction Analysis

Hill Gets Rich, Finally

by Craig Goldstein

Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed LHP Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract. [12/5]

A move that feels both natural and completely at odds with what we know. Whether Hill can deliver a performance worthy of this contract isn’t going to be divined by pulling up his B-Ref, FanGraphs, or Baseball Prospectus player card. Nothing historical will prove definitively that Hill will be worth $48 million over the next three years, or that he won’t, because everything about Hill’s past two seasons have been historic of their own accord. We also know the Dodgers have a stable full of horses who can’t run a full lap as it is, and adding another doesn’t necessarily diversify that risk. Of course, the price of the deal certainly reflects the risk involved.

If you’re an optimist, you’re ... well, you’re happy. Not just by your nature, but because you like Hill’s chances of staying healthy, making 30-plus starts every year, and maintaining his effectiveness. You like the terms of the deal, because you know that—when healthy—Hill was one of the best pitchers in the game, and gives the Dodgers a similar one-two punch as when Zack Greinke was in LA. You look up I-5, note that the Giants gave Mark Melancon, a closer, just $500,000 less per season (and for one more year) and think “sure, Hill hasn’t pitched a ton, but he can pitch at least as much as Melancon every year.” You wouldn’t really be wrong.

If you’re a pessimist, you’re thinking of Scott Kazmir. Kazmir received a comparable three-year pact from the Dodgers, for a similar $48 million. He even got the opportunity to opt out after year one, a piece of leverage Hill will lack and that Kazmir had little incentive to exercise. You focus on how Hill only threw 110 innings last season, and that was by far the high-water mark for his durability since 2008. You note that despite that “durability,” Hill missed about seven weeks due to a blister issue, missed more time with a groin injury, and had flare-ups of other blisters after returning to health. Oh yeah, and he’s now signed through his age-39 season.

If you’re Hill, you’re emotional. Hill choked up more than once at the press conference announcing the deal, despite telling himself he wouldn’t. It’s hard to blame him. His long and winding road to this point might only be superseded by his teammate Andrew Toles. In discussing why he felt the Dodgers were where he wanted to be, Hill mentioned the fans first, specifically their passion. He noted the desire to win most often, saying:

As I've gotten older it's something that you learn that you only have a certain amount of time and you want to make the most out of your time that you have. Being here in LA gives us that opportunity to bring a World Series to the city. That's what we wanted.

If you’re a neutral observer ... well, I won’t deign to know how you feel. But I’d advise you to feel good for a guy like Hill. He’s got pedestrian fastball (by velocity), several curveballs, multiple arm angles, a raging internal fire, and a maniacal work ethic. Despite appearing at least once in every MLB season from 2005-2016, he accrued a meager $9,015,000 in career earnings. Baseball hasn’t always been good to Rich Hill, but finally, for a guy who has always been good for baseball, it was. Oh and Sam? We finally got your answer.

Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here

Related Content:  Los Angeles Dodgers,  Rich Hill

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