The A’s may be asking a bit too much for lefty starter Rich Hill.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Boston Red Sox were talking to Oakland about the veteran pitcher, but things fell flat when the A’s requested the organization’s fourth-ranked prospect, right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza. The Red Sox then turned around and traded Espinoza straight up for another left-handed starter, former Athletic and now-former Padre, Drew Pomeranz.
Pomeranz is a better option than Hill in what is a very weak market for starting pitchers at this season’s August 1 non-waiver trade deadline.
There may not be any starters on the market that are worth a team’s top pitching prospect. And Billy Beane is asking for a top-five prospect for Hill? That seems a bit far-fetched.
Hill is 36 years old, has a spotty MLB history and was pitching in an independent league at one point last season. He’s also spent time on the disabled list this season with a groin strain and was forced to leave his most recent start on Sunday after just five pitches because of a blister on his middle finger. He’s missed two starts now due to blisters.
Whichever, if any, team that does make a trade for Hill will want him on the mound every five days for the remainder of the season in order to make the trade worth what they would be giving up.
While the Red Sox may have overpaid for Pomeranz, he is still a better option than Hill. Pomeranz was a relatively-unknown reliever and spot starter for the two years he was with Oakland after spending four seasons with the Colorado Rockies. While he kept his ERA relatively low (3.08) during his time with the Athletics, that was mostly due to his outings as a reliever. He had trouble as a starter because he had just a two-pitch (fastball and curveball) arsenal at the time.
Pomeranz is now seen by most as a legit starter as he has added a cut fastball to his pitching repertoire. His now-three main pitches can be thrown in any count and cover three distinctly different speeds. After years as a reliever and spot starter, Pomeranz has potentially changed the course of his career.
There’s also a matter of controllability. Pomeranz is under team control for the next two seasons, albeit through arbitration; Hill is a free agent at season’s end. Pomeranz is also much younger than Hill at just 27 years old and could easily be looked at as someone the Red Sox might want to re-sign long-term. In that sense, Boston can consider him to be more than just a rental player for their 2016 playoff run.
At 37, Hill will be a much less desirable signing for next season than a 28-year-old Pomeranz. Hill has been brilliant this year, going 9-3 in 14 starts while posting a 2.25 ERA, but has a very short track-record to fall back on and a far cloudier future than Pomeranz.
Every team with a need for a starting pitcher — mainly, the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays — is expected to bid for Hill now that the Red Sox have taken Pomeranz off the market.
Still, is Hill — who could miss time over the course of the remainder of the season and can walk at its completion — worth such a high-level prospect?
In a normal market, one that isn’t bereft of starting pitching while there are teams that desperately need it, the A’s would be definitely asking way too much for Hill. Even in this market, it feels as though they still are. The Red Sox turned them aside at that asking price; if Oakland doesn’t lower it back into the realm of realism, they may not be able to trade him at all.
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