As the Mets continue to build their roster for the 2021 season, they are reportedly interested in veteran left-handed starting pitcher Rich Hill, who is set to turn 41 in March and is coming off a very good shortened 2020 season with the Twins.
Hill’s path as a major league player has been an unusual one. Back in his age-27 season in 2007, he put himself on the map with a 3.92 ERA in 195.0 innings of work for the Cubs. He was worth 3.4 bWAR that year, but a mix of injuries and a major spike in his walk rate followed after that. Bouncing between the big leagues and the minors, Hill spent the 2008 through 2014 seasons with the Cubs, Red Sox, Orioles, Cleveland, the Angels, and the Yankees. Working mostly out of those teams’ bullpens, he totaled a 5.41 ERA in 153.0 innings over that span, and he walked 6.4 batters per nine innings.
But the Red Sox brought him back for 2015, his age-35 season, and while he made just four starts for them that year, they were a breakthrough. In 29 innings, he had a 1.55 ERA, and perhaps most importantly, he walked just 1.6 batters per nine inning—while striking out 11.2 per nine. From 2015 through 2020, he’s been excellent, with a 2.92 ERA in 95 appearances, just one of which came out of the bullpen, for the Red Sox, A’s, Dodgers, and Twins.
The only knock on Hill over the course of his late-career resurgence has been health. He topped out at 135.2 innings and 25 starts in 2017, and in the 162-game 2019 season, he threw 58.2 innings over the course of thirteen starts.
Given how the Mets’ rotation has been constructed thus far, Hill would make a lot of sense for the team. With Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Carlos Carrasco headlining the rotation, there’s some uncertainty in the other two spots of the rotation, even though the Mets have been building legitimate major league depth there. Adding Hill to the mix would push other options—recent acquisitions Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto and the incumbent David Peterson—further down the rotation depth chart.
It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a full slate of 30+ starts from Hill in 2021, but it would be reasonable to expect above average production in however many starts he does make. Combined with the starts that would be made by the pitchers who would presumably fill in when needed—pitchers who importantly have options remaining—it would make for a good rotation spot overall.
You don’t want to completely rely on everyone being healthy at the same time—as the Mets and their fans are well aware of from the recent past—but if that were to happen for any part of the season, the Mets would be rolling out a high quality starting pitcher every day. And even if it never did, Hill would simply give the Mets more good starts that they wouldn’t have otherwise.