Rich Hill seems like a perfect trade candidate on paper for the Pittsburgh Pirates as the deadline grows nearer.
The veteran left-hander is 43-years-old. He’s only signed through the end of this season and he’s been at least somewhat effective on the mound.
With his experience as well as his durability, it’s logical to suggest and even predict that the Pirates will trade Hill, but they may want to think twice about doing that.
This season with Pittsburgh, Hill is 7-10 with a 4.82 ERA/4.41 FIP across 21 starts. A contending team looking for a back-end starter or even some relief help could be interested in acquiring his services.
However, Hill may be more valuable to the Pirates for that final two months of the season than the likely marginal return he would fetch in a trade — and there are a couple reasons why.
The first one is his clubhouse presence. When you’ve been around as long as Hill has, you learn a thing or two. The Pirates have a young pitching staff, and they go to Hill for tips, tricks and guidance.
More than just his leadership is that Hill can be an innings eater, and the Pirates will need that down the stretch.
The Pirates’ starting pitching depth this season has taken a serious hit as JT Brubaker, Vince Velasquez and Mike Burrows all underwent season-ending surgeries.
Because of this, the Pirates’ current starting rotation is very young. Quinn Priester is only two starts into his big league career. Osvaldo Bido, even when he follows an opener, has only 30 miles in the majors and is nearing 100 already on the season between his work in the minor leagues.
Then there’s Johan Oviedo, who for the first time in the big leagues is getting a chance to work exclusively as a starting pitcher for a full season. Oviedo’s total innings pitched in 2022? 117.1. This year? 111.1.
The Pirates are going to need healthy arms down the stretch and the reinforcements at Triple-A are pretty bare.
Jared Jones is considered to be one of the Pirates’ top pitching prospects and he’s there, but he likely isn’t quite ready yet. At least not enough to make a meaningful contribution this season.
By keeping Hill, the Pirates won’t have to rush either Roansy Contreras or Luis Ortiz back to the big league rotation. Both pitchers need more work to try and regain their form.
Sure, it’s another lost season down on the North Shore. But even noncontending teams need to find a way to get innings out of their starting pitchers. That’s what Rich Hill will do.
If Ben Cherington gets the return he wants in a potential deal, then he certainly could pull the trigger and make it happen.
But Hill in a Pirates’ uniform through the end of the season might just make more sense given their current situation.