Thirty-six year old Rich Hill pitched like an ace this season, compiling a 9-3, 2.25 ERA, 10.7 K/9 stat line in 14 starts for the Oakland A’s this season. The problem has been that he’s struggled with injuries for much of the last month, including a pulled groin and a broken blister on his pitching hand.
While neither injury seems significant, they have limited his innings to 76.0 so far in 2016.
That’s a problem since Hill has been something of a late-career wunderkind. He impressed in four starts in 2015 after changing his motion from a three-quarters to overhand arm slot. That adjustment has resulted in his strikeout rate zooming to over 10.0 K/9 ever since.
Before, Hill was nothing more than a journeyman pitcher with a career 4.23 ERA in 88 career starts spread out over 12 major-league seasons. Rich Hill did eat 195.0 innings at age 27, but that came in 2007 with the Chicago Cubs. He hasn’t logged more than 68 innings before his breakout this season.
Hill’s recent injury struggles now has to make the KC Royals wonder if he’s nothing more than deadline deal fool’s gold.
However, his recent struggles might also bring Rich Hill down into the Kansas City Royals price range in terms of prospects. Hill is a pure rental, given that he’s on a one-year, $6 million deal in 2016 and is eligible for free agency in 2017.
Yet, there’s little indication that the KC Royals and A’s are considering a Rich Hill deal. Though they have scouting him before, the Royals were not among the horde of clubs that San Francisco Chronicle writer Susan Slusser listed as checking out Hill in his last start against the Blue Jays (which lasted only five pitches before Hill left with a blister problem).
The smart money says the KC Royals will do something before the trade deadline. It just might be a minor deal unless the team catches fire before August 1.